4.4 32
by Alex Sanchez

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After Diego lands himself on probation for fighting, he doesn’t trust his probation officer, Mr. Vidas. But as he begins to open up, Diego realizes that he needs Mr. Vidas’s help to get his anger under control. To do that, Diego will need to face the nightmares from his past head-on and confront the memories he’s been avoiding. Will anyone even

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After Diego lands himself on probation for fighting, he doesn’t trust his probation officer, Mr. Vidas. But as he begins to open up, Diego realizes that he needs Mr. Vidas’s help to get his anger under control. To do that, Diego will need to face the nightmares from his past head-on and confront the memories he’s been avoiding. Will anyone even believe him if he tells the truth about his stepfather? Award-winning author Alex Sanchez writes about a teen’s very real struggle to overcome his anger and take control of his life.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Bait opens some new, deep territory — difficult, heartbreaking, and courageous; Diego's story will stick with readers for a long time. Alex Sanchez is a wonderful writer, brave and compassionate." — Terry Trueman, Printz Honor author of Stuck In Neutral

"The emotions are keenly conveyed here, and long after the other plot details have faded, Diego's raw urgency and need will likely linger with readers."—The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

“Sanchez draws his characters lovingly, making it very apparent that he…genuinely understands their peril.”—Kirkus Reviews

“An authentic and tender story…Sanchez does a masterful job.”—Publishers Weekly

Amanda Graham
Diego MacMann gets good grades, takes care of his little brother, is fascinated by sharks, and even has a weekend job to save money for college. Everything, even down to his crush on Ariel, seems normal, but Diego is hiding secrets, too. After his stepdad commits suicide, his mom has to work two jobs and doesn't notice the changes with Diego. However, after he punches one guy at school for looking at him the wrong way and another guy at the mall for calling him gay, it's impossible for anyone to not see that something is wrong. Bait is a story that exposes the internal turmoil some teens face in dealing with sexual abuse and the impact it has on their lives. The story shows how Diego confronts his problems by talking to someone who can help, but in the meantime reveals graphic content. This is for mature readers. Reviewer: Amanda Graham
Publishers Weekly

The author presents an authentic and tender story about a boy trying to cope after years of sexual abuse. Diego's stepfather molested and raped Diego for years-something Diego alone knows, now that his stepfather has committed suicide. To deal with his anger and pain, Diego cuts himself with a sharp shark's tooth and strikes out violently against his peers, landing him in court. Only when he is paired with a sympathetic probation officer can Diego finally admit his secret. Teens may find the shark metaphor that runs through Diego's dream life heavy-handed, but Sanchez (The God Box) does a masterful job explaining the protagonist's complicated emotions as he deals with his past. He worries that the abuse will turn him into a molester or make him gay-and he is angry and afraid when he finds out that the probation officer he trusted is gay. He even feels grief when he finally is able to say good-bye to the stepfather who abused him. All in all, this is a careful examination of a much neglected topic. Ages 12-up. (June)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Children's Literature - Amanda MacGregor
Sixteen-year-old Diego is a good student and helpful son, but he ends up on probation when he punches Fabio, a gay classmate, because he does not like the way Fabio looks at him. What seems like a violent and homophobic reaction actually has a much deeper story behind it, which Diego is surprised to find himself revealing to Mr. Vidas, his probation officer. Vidas seems to really understand Diego, and his probing questions encourage Diego to deal with his emotions and his past in order to move forward. In their sessions together, Diego finally feels comfortable enough to confess to Vidas that his stepfather sexually abused him, and then committed suicide the day after Diego considered killing him. As a result of this abuse, Diego cuts himself, contemplates suicide, and feels his shame renders him incapable of having normal relationships. He worries that being raped and abused will make him gay, or that people will think he is a pervert. His sessions with Vidas help him confront his past and leave him hopeful for the future. Sanchez's novel is emotionally heavy and sometimes difficult to read. Readers may get impatient waiting for Diego to reveal the full truth behind his anger during the drawn-out sessions with Vidas. Despite some flaws, this intense look at the marginalized topics of male sexual abuse and males who self-harm makes this novel an important addition to any collection. Reviewer: Amanda MacGregor
VOYA - Christine Sanderson
Diego MacMann is a good student, but he has a temper he cannot control. When he assaults another student, he lands in court. He is assigned a probation officer, Mr. Vidas. Something about the way Mr. Vidas looks at him allows Diego to trust him. After discovering that Mr. Vidas wants to recommend a suspended sentence, Diego goes against legal advice and requests to be placed on probation in order to retain him as his probation officer. In their weekly meetings, they explore the causes of Diego's anger, his obsession with self-mutilation, and his suicidal tendencies. Slowly Diego learns that if he is ever to take control of his life, he must deal with the abuse he suffered at the hands of his stepfather. Sanchez's novel unfolds slowly, layer by layer. Although more sophisticated readers might see the signs of abuse early on, for many younger readers the cause of Diego's anger is revealed as Diego puts the pieces together. The description of the abuse does not pull any punches. Mr. Vidas forces Diego to face what has happened. The subject matter and descriptions are graphic, in keeping with the events that have taken place; however, the novel's emphasis is on trust, dealing with trauma, learning to love, and rebuilding one's life. Although this novel will not appeal to every reader, for those trying to understand traumatic events in their life or the lives of others, it has much to offer. Reviewer: Christine Sanderson
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up–Diego MacMann is in trouble. At 16, he faces juvenile court, charged with assault. He just can’t control his fists, especially when he feels that his masculinity is threatened. Anger-management classes have failed, and now this earnest young man teeters between self-loathing and defensive pride. Hope comes unexpectedly when he establishes a bond with Mr. Vidas. The probation officer asks questions that challenge Diego to examine his motivations and his emotional life. How does he feel about his absent birth father? The stepfather who committed suicide? The gay student who looked at him “that way” just before Diego punched him out? The third-person narrative keeps readers one step ahead of Diego as he unravels the effects of abandonment, poverty, and sexual abuse on himself and his struggling family. During the short sessions with Mr. Vidas, he finds some of the tools and insights he needs to navigate his rocky passage to maturity. Unlike most recent fiction that addresses sexual abuse, this story focuses not on the telling of secrets, but on making sense of the experience and building a healthy foundation for moving forward. This groundbreaking novel brings to life an appealing young man who is neither totally a victim nor a victimizer, one who struggles to handle conflicts that derail many young lives. Teens will identify with Diego’s dreams and frustrations, his feeling of difference, his yearning for “normal” life and relationships. High interest and accessible, this coming-of-age story belongs in every collection. For the one in six boys who is sexually abused, it could be a lifesaver.–Carolyn Lehman, Humboldt State University,Arcata, CA
Kirkus Reviews
Having punched out one too many classmates, 16-year-old Diego Rivera finds himself on probation for fighting and faces doing prison time if it happens again. At the beginning, albeit for a brief time, Diego is an enigma to readers. On the outside, he's a lovable, intelligent young man who helps his mom take care of his little brother; on the inside, he's a tortured teenage boy with an anger-control problem and whose arms bear the scars of years of self-inflicted cutting from a shark's tooth he wears around his neck. Obviously Diego has issues, and it's up to his supportive probation officer, Mr. Vidas, to help get him back on track. Even out of his element, Sanchez draws his characters lovingly, making it very apparent that he knows teens like Diego and genuinely understands their peril. Although the pieces of the plot fit together, Diego's recovery is rendered in such a bombastic, groan-inducing, problem-novel style-complete with dream interpretation and an especially cringeworthy guided visualization/remembering exercise-that even the author's biggest fans may be flipping pages to get to the end. (Fiction. YA)
Children's Literature - Heather Robertson Mason
Diego isn't a bad kid, but after too many fights, he's earned his share of doubters. After he punches another student who looks at him funny, he ends up on probation. Although initially wary of Mr. Vidas, his probation officer, soon Diego realizes that Vidas may be the only person able to help him confront the source of his anger and move past it. Diego struggles with a history of sexual abuse, and stories of boys who have been molested are rare. Sanchez handles the subject deftly, avoiding the scenes of melodrama that are found in books geared toward a female audience. Anger permeates Diego, but he is struggling to be a good student, friend, and son anyway. The mix of pride and vulnerability rings true and readers feel a great deal of sympathy towards him. Mr. Vidas is also a well-drawn character with the steadfastness and plainspokenness that a good social worker would present to a youth in trouble. The story doesn't get too deep, however. Most of the story is captured in the conversations held in Mr. Vidas' office, and Diego's relationships with friends are not explored as deeply as his memories are. The story also lacks a final confrontation, especially with nemeses, but this, too, is realistic. Abuse victims don't often get to confront their attackers and parents don't always believe what's right before their eyes. The description of the abuse is graphic but short, and comes at a key point. Although not over the top, teachers need to be aware of it before recommending to students. The book has some flaws, but it definitely has a place on the bookshelf. Reviewer: Heather Robertson Mason

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Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)
HL630L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 14 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

"This is Mr. Vidas," explained Diego's court-appointed attorney as they headed into juvenile court. "He's the probation officer assigned to your case."

The stocky thirtysomething PO was shorter than six-foot-one Diego, but his grip was that of someone sure of himself, his voice calm and confident. "Good to meet you, Diego."

Diego shook hands warily. What would Vidas want from him? What if he decided he didn't like Diego? Would he recommend that the judge lock him up in juvie?

The courtroom looked like the set of some law drama — except for Diego this wasn't TV but real life. His life, spinning from bad to worse. He'd let himself down. Big-time.

He slid his lanky frame awkwardly into the defendant's chair, aware of the faint smell of his own nervous sweat. He wished he could change the channel and be at home, taking care of his aquarium fish or goofing around with his little brother, Eddie; or at the beach with his best friend, Kenny, hunting for shells and riding waves; or at school, watching Ariel across the hall, hoping she might look over at him. He wished he could be anywhere else in the world but here.

As the bailiff announced the case, Diego's outgrown dress shoes chewed at his ankles. His crimson-colored tie felt like a noose around his neck. And from beside the brightly polished judge's bench, Vidas's hazel eyes peered directly at Diego — as if trying to see inside him, figure him out.

Diego glanced away, trying to act casual as he slid his hands beneath the defense table, where he tugged the cuffs of his long-sleeve shirt down to make sure they covered the cuts above his wrists.

Judge Ferrara, flanked by the American and Texas flags, gazed up from the file he was reading and peered over the front of the podium. "Your name's Diego MacMann? What is that? Mexican-Irish?"

Diego sat up, caught off guard. Wasn't the judge supposed to address the lawyers? Ms. Delgado, his attorney, nodded for him to respond. Little sweat blisters burst onto his forehead as he replied, "Um, yes sir, your honor."

At seven years old, he'd moved from Puerto Vallarta, on Mexico's Pacific coast, to Corpus Christi when his mom married his stepdad, James MacMann. In the process, "Mac" had adopted him. Nobody had asked Diego what he wanted.

"Well, that's interesting," the judge mused. The lenses of his horn-rimmed glasses made his eyes look huge and round as an owl's. "Sixteen years old..." He continued to read the file aloud. "...first time misdemeanor assault..."

The incident had happened at school, in the hallway outside the cafeteria on the way to lunch. Fabio Flores, a junior who painted his fingernails purple, wore eye makeup, and told the entire school he was gay, kept grinning at Diego.

It pissed Diego off. Why the hell did Fabio keep looking at him that way? Diego told him to stop, but Fabio kept it up until Diego couldn't stand it anymore. The anger moved like a pair of hands across his body.

He popped Fabio in the face — only one punch and not even that hard — expecting Fabio to block him. Or run away. Or something. He'd clearly seen Diego's punch coming. Why'd he just stand there?

His nose spurted like a fire hydrant, gushing blood all over the hall tiles. Girls screamed. The hallway monitors pinned Diego to the floor.

He knew he shouldn't have hit Fabio. He'd never wanted to hurt anybody. But even though he said he hadn't meant it, the vice principal suspended him for a week. And Fabio's dad had pressed charges.

"So does this mean," Judge Ferrara continued speaking directly to Diego, his voice turning angry, "that you've got an Irish temper or a Latin temper? Or both?"

"Um, I don't know." Diego stumbled over a response, as a bead of sweat trickled down his forehead. "Your honor, sir."

"Well, whichever it is" — Judge Ferrara jabbed his finger toward Diego — "you'd better learn to control that temper or I'll put you in jail. You understand that?"

"Um, yes," Diego replied, his voice trembling.

"Yes what?" the judge demanded.

"Yes, I understand, your honor, sir." Diego's heart pounded fearfully.

Judge Ferrara glared at him a long moment, then shifted his gaze to the prosecutor. "How do you wish to proceed with this case?"

While the prosecutor related the plea bargain, Diego only half-listened, rattled by his fears of being jailed.

Before court, Ms. Delgado had explained to his mom and him the plea deal:

"If you plead not guilty and a trial proves you are guilty, the prosecutor will demand jail time. But if you plead guilty and forego trial, the prosecution will usually support whatever sentence your PO recommends. Most likely you'll get probation. Maybe even less than that. It's your decision, but if I were you, I'd take the plea deal."

With his mom's agreement, Diego had said yes to the plea bargain. Anything to avoid jail.

Judge Ferrara now accepted the plea, ordered a presentencing investigation, and set a disposition date. Next thing Diego knew, he was back in the waiting room with his attorney, his mom, and Vidas.

"Now, you do whatever Mr. Vidas says," Ms. Delgado told Diego. "Okay? I'll see you on your sentencing date."

She said good-bye to everybody, and Diego's mom immediately turned to Vidas. "I want him to be on probation."

"Ma!" Diego protested. "I don't need probation. I'm fine!"

"If you're fine, why are we here?" She spoke to him as though he were a kid, despite the fact that he stood taller than her — even when she wore heels, like now. "I try to talk to him," she told Vidas, "but he won't listen to me. I don't know what to do with him anymore."

"You're the one who never listens," Diego muttered. He figured Vidas would take his mom's side like other adults normally did. But Vidas didn't. Apparently he was used to hearing such arguments.

"Hold on." He calmly raised his palms up between Diego and his mom, referee-like. "Let me explain what happens next. For the presentence investigation, I'll need to conduct a home visit, get your school records, interview the victim, and hear your side of the incident. Based on what I find out, I'll recommend a sentence to the judge. It might be probation or something else."

"But not juvie, right?" Diego's voice rose, tight and tense.

"Probably not," Vidas said. Once again he peered into Diego's eyes as if trying to glimpse things that Diego didn't want him — or anybody — to see.

"But it's too soon for me to rule anything out," Vidas continued. "A lot will depend on you."

Diego looked away. Why couldn't Vidas just assure him he wouldn't end up in jail?

"How is he behaving at home?" Vidas asked his mom.

"Most of the time he's a good boy. He takes care of his brother in the evenings and makes their dinner, he does his chores and homework...."

Hearing her praise, Diego relaxed a little — until she added, "But sometimes his anger just explodes! I've told him he needs to control his emotions." She turned to Diego. "Why won't you listen to me?"

"Why don't you listen to me?" Diego shot back.

"And his father?" Vidas asked.

"His stepfather died," his mom said softly, "three years ago."

Diego glanced down at the floor, not wanting to think about Mac's suicide, wishing he could just forget Mac altogether.

"I'm very sorry to hear that," Vidas told his mom. Then he pulled an electronic planner from his herringbone jacket. "What's the best day for a home visit?"

"I have to work two jobs," his mom explained. "I only have Sundays off."

"Unfortunately," Vidas replied, "the visit needs to be during office hours, Monday through Friday, eight-thirty to five-thirty."

His mom glared at Diego and shook her head so angrily that the chrome clip fell out of her hair. "I can't keep taking time off because of your fights! You're going to make me lose my job!"

Feeling a little guilty, Diego stooped down and picked up the clip. He knew his mom was struggling to keep their family afloat. There hadn't been any life insurance settlement because Mac's death was a suicide. But even when Diego tried to help his mom with money from his Saturday job, she told him to save it for college.

As he handed her the clip her gaze softened. "Thursday, I guess," she told Vidas. "Can you please make it later in the afternoon so I don't have to take the whole day off?"

"Sure. No problem. How about four o'clock?"

"Okay, thank you. I hope you can help Diego. Maybe he'll listen to you."

"Let's see what we can do," Vidas said optimistically. He shook her hand good-bye and turned to Diego, grasping his palm as though squaring some deal. Once again he looked him in the eyes, as if searching for something.

Diego tried to not look away, although he wished Vidas would stop doing that.

Outside the courthouse, Diego tore away the strangling necktie, a gift from Mac his mom had made him wear. Inside their old Toyota, he cast off the cramped dress shoes and changed into his well-worn sneakers, grumbling, "Why'd you have to tell him to put me on probation?"

His mom ignored the question and phoned the nursing home where she worked. Although she told them she was on her way, when she pulled out of the garage, she glanced at the clock and asked Diego, "Isn't it after your lunch period? We'd better stop to eat."

"I thought you had to get to work."

"Yes, but you have to eat." His mom always made sure he ate.

They stopped at a fish-and-chips place across from the seawall overlooking the bay. Inside the restaurant, he noticed that the Value Meal included a mini spyglass telescope. He decided to get one for his friend, Kenny, just for fun.

Sitting down at a booth, Diego's mom bit into a fried shrimp and commented, "Mr. Vidas seems like a very nice man."

"You don't even know him yet," Diego protested. She was always too trusting of people. "How do you know he's not some serial killer?"

"Ay, you're being silly." His mom pressed a napkin to her lips. "You need a man to talk to — a father figure."

"You don't know what I need," Diego fired back, recalling his previous so-called father figure, Mac. "You've got no idea."

Nobody but he knew the truth about Mac. His mom had never wanted to know, even when Diego tried to tell her. Now it was too late; it was over. Mac was dead.

Turning away from his mom, Diego lifted the tiny spyglass to his eye. He stared out the window toward the dark green waters of the bay, thinking — and wanting to forget. Copyright © 2009 by Alex Sanchez

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