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A teenage boy must face the harsh realities of inner-city life, a disintegrating family, and destructive temptations as he struggles to find his identity as a young man.

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A teenage boy must face the harsh realities of inner-city life, a disintegrating family, and destructive temptations as he struggles to find his identity as a young man.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In a contemporary, hard-hitting survival tale set in a neighborhood where people get shot "for no real reason," Flake (The Skin I'm In) follows an African-American boy's harrowing initiation into manhood. Two years after Mann's seven-year-old brother is killed in a drive-by shooting, the boys' father decides to teach 13-year-old Mann, who narrates, the same lesson received by boys in African tribes. He drives Mann and his best friend, Kee-lee, into the woods and leaves them there to fend for themselves. Wild animals prove to be less of a threat than the people the boys encounter, and once they do return to the city, Mann's father turns them out again to find out what direction they want to take in life ("You wanna be a pimp-well, there's a road that'll lead you there. Wanna be a thief, sell crack and live high and die hard-well, that road's waiting for you too," says Mann's father). The method used to induct Mann into a violent world will spark as much controversy among readers as it does among characters in the book, but in the end, Mann (who fares better than his friend Kee-lee) does learn some important lessons that go beyond survival. There is a gradual yet notable change in his morality as he searches his soul to find what kind of man he wants to be. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up-Even though random shootings have become increasingly common in his neighborhood, Mann is horrified when his little brother is gunned down while playing on his own front porch. Two years later, the 13-year-old and his parents are still struggling with their grief. His father believes that if he had been less loving and protective, Jason might have been tougher and capable of avoiding the shot. Mann and his friend Kee-lee keep track of the shooting deaths around them, certain that their own time may come and make them nothing more than numbers on their list. Influenced by ancient African coming-of-age rituals in which young boys are sent into the wilderness to attempt to survive, Mann's father takes him and Kee-lee camping and abandons them far from home. For two urban teens with little food or money, this is a dangerous, frightening experience that leads to crime and violence. After the boys make their treacherous way back home, Mann's father turns him out to live on the streets, determined he will not lose another son because he is too "soft." This disturbing, thought-provoking novel will leave readers with plenty of food for thought and should fuel lively discussions.-Ginny Gustin, Sonoma County Library System, Santa Rosa, CA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In a neighborhood where random death walks onto your front porch and kills you or your innocent little brother, Mann and Kee-lee become increasingly convinced that they'll die before reaching 17. Mann's parents are in a tailspin of grief and worry about their remaining son. Mann's father, in a bizarre belief that his son needs to be toughened up in order to survive, takes the two buddies camping and deserts them far from home. Making their way home pushes the boys into one risky, illegal and dangerous decision after another. Instead of getting sympathy and support on their return, Mann's father again turns them loose in the city with a little money and some sandwiches and orders not to come back. Unprepared, frightened and desperate, the boys become increasingly involved in criminal activity until disaster hits. The situation deteriorates with horrendous consequences, but somehow artistic Mann finds a way to a redemption of sorts. Gripping and troubling, Flake paints a provocative picture of teens struggling to deal with a world that is out of control and without adults capable of providing help. Powerful-and disturbing. (Fiction. YA)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781606860830
  • Publisher: Disney Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2007
  • Pages: 298
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt




Copyright © 2005 Sharon G. Flake
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-7868-1844-1

Chapter One

They kill people where I live. They shoot 'em dead for no real reason. You don't duck, you die. That's what happened to my brother Jason. He was seven. Playing on our front porch. Laughing. Then some man ran by yelling, "He gonna kill me. He's gonna-"

Before the man finished saying what he had to say, a boy no older than me chased him up our front porch steps. The man yelled for Jason to get out the way. But Jason just stood there crying. Right then, the boy pulls out a gun and starts shooting.

Bang! Guns really sound like that, you know. Bang! And people bleed from everywhere and blood is redder than you think. Bang! And little kids look funny in caskets. That's 'cause they ain't meant to be in one, I guess.

My brother died two years ago. But I can't stop thinking about him. And I can't walk in the house through the front door no more because of the blood. My mother says it's gone. "See?" she says, pointing to the porch floor and the gray wooden chairs. "Long gone." But I can still see it. I can. So I come into the house through the back way. Stepping over the missing stoop Jason used to put his green plastic soldiers in. Opening the iron gate that my dad put up to keep trouble out. Going inside the house and not looking at my brother's room, becauseif I even see his door, I cry. And a thirteen-year-old boy ain't supposed to cry, is he?

The day Jason died I was with Journey-a horse. She stays at Dream-a-Lot Stables, not far from where I live. It's a broke-down stable where kids hit her with rocks and try to make her eat sticks. But my father, he taught me and Jason to ride Journey, and brush her good. So even though she ain't ours, Journey likes us best. The man who owns the stables and rents out broke-down horses for five bucks an hour would let us ride for almost free, long as we cleaned Journey's stable first. So that morning, after my mom and dad went to work, I left Jason home by hisself. I walked to the stables and brushed the flies and dirt off Journey's blond coat. I swept up turds as big as turtles, and rode Journey all the way home-up the avenue and past Seventh Street, between honking cars, slow buses, and grown-ups who patted her butt, then got mad when she broke wind in their faces.

When I got home, Jason was on the porch. He asked me to play toy soldiers with him. I wouldn't. Journey was thirsty. So I went around back to get a hose so she could drink. That's when I heard the man yelling, and Jason screaming my name. I ran to the front of the house. The boy chased the man up our steps and onto our porch. Journey shook her head and stomped her feet on the pavement. The gun went off. The hose in my hand soaked the porch, squirted the dead man and splashed blood everywhere. Neighbors tried to pull it away from me, but I wouldn't turn it loose. That's what they say anyhow.

After Jason was gone, I saw a psychologist for six months. But my father didn't like that, so I quit going. "You a man, not no sissy baby girl," he said when he found me one day behind the couch, crying.

My mother got mad at him. "I'm gonna cry over my baby boy till I die," she said, hugging me. "Guess Mann here's gonna cry awhile too."

My father used to be in the army, so he don't cry much. And he don't want no boy crying all the time neither. That's what he tells me anyhow.

A week ago my mother told my father I needed help. "We all do," she said, sitting down on the livingroom floor next to me. "It's been nearly two years since Jason died, and it hurts like it happened this morning."

My father stood behind his favorite brown leather chair. "I don't need no help. And him," he said, pointing to me, "ain't nothing that momma's boy needs but a good old-fashioned butt-kicking."

I am not a momma's boy, but since Jason died, that's what my dad calls me. "People die," he said. "Little people die too. Get over it."

My mother jumped up. Her knee knocked me in the chin. I held my mouth, because I bit my tongue and I didn't want her feeling bad about that. "So you're over it, huh?" she said, running up to the window and pulling back the white curtains. "Yeah, right," she said, holding on to the heavy, iron bars that cover every window and door in our house.

My mother walked past my father and unlocked the drawer to his desk. She picked up his .38 and stuck her arm high in the air like she does when she's hailing a cab. Then she reached in the drawer with her other hand and pulled out a rusty hunting knife big enough to cut your arm off. "He cries," she said, looking at me and pointing the gun at my father, "but you, you-"

"Shut up, Grace. I'm warning you."

My mother kept talking. Next thing I knew my father was pulling his gun and knife out her hands and locking them back in the drawer. She hugged him from behind. "He didn't deserve to die. He was sweet and smart and gave hugs when you-"

My dad covered his ears with his hands. "Grace!"

She ran to the window and yelled out. "You killed us too! We look like we still alive but we dead. Rotten inside." She punched her flat stomach. Bit down on her arm. "Ja ... Ja ..."

My father shook her. "Don't say his name! Don't ever-"

My mother's eyes are big red circles with black bags under 'em that won't go away since Jason died. "He's gonna be nine in a few months," she said. "We have to make a cake. Buy him something special."

My dad spit at the trash can. Some made it in. The rest stuck to the outside like a slug. "A dead boy don't need no presents. I told you that last year."

We always get cakes on our birthdays. And we always sing songs and make the day extra special, not just for me and Jason, but for my mom and dad too. My mother says it wouldn't be right to leave Jason out now. So she gets him presents he can't open and makes him cakes he can't eat.

My dad said what my mother never wants to hear. "Grace. He's gone. And he ain't never coming back."

I watched her, 'cause I knew them words were gonna get her too sad to make supper, or laugh when the funny shows came on TV tonight.

My mother went to the front door and opened it wide. Then she ran onto the porch and yelled for Jason. My dad ran after her. But by the time he got there, she was on her knees picking up little green soldiers we find on the porch sometimes but can't figure out just how they get there. She stomped her feet. "Jason. You come home. Come home right now!"

My father kneeled down beside her. He rubbed her lips, then covered up the rest of her words with his fingers. And then he cried, right along with her.

Chapter Two

Three days later my father apologized. He said he was sorry for making my mother so upset. Sorry for saying all them things about Jason. She was glad he said it. After that, they got dressed and went to the movies. I went to my room and tried to figure out why she couldn't figure out that tomorrow he was gonna say them same things all over again.

"He can't help it," she says all the time. "He just doesn't know what to do with all the things he's feeling inside."

I know she's right. Only I get tired of him being mean. He used to be different. He used to take us to the park. Slide down snow hills with us and lie in bed between me and Jason and make up stories about two boys walking from here to China. Then Jason died and so did my dad, kinda.

One time, when my mother and him were arguing about the way he treated me, she made me go get some of Jason's things. I walked over to the middle bookshelf and picked up Jason's lunch box-the one he had in his hand that day he got killed.

"Give it here," my mother said. She opened it. Took out the note. "'Daddy loves you.'"

My father snatched the napkin out her hand and tore it up.

My mother pointed to a Buster Brown shoe box sitting way on top of the bookshelf. "I still got the rest," she said, talking about the other notes my dad had put in Jason's lunch box. Have a nice day, they'd say. Meet me after school for coffee, he'd write. Only he never gave Jason real coffee-just grape juice in a coffee mug. "Us men have to have something strong now and then," he'd say. That always made Jason laugh.

I got notes every day too, when I was Jason's age. But when I turned nine, they stopped. My father took me to the yard right after my birthday party that year, and burned them. "What's between a father and his son," he said, putting one hand on his heart and the other on mine, "can't be burned by fire, washed away by water, or destroyed with human hands." He squeezed me so hard, I couldn't breathe. Then he gave me a note-the same note he gives me every year on my birthday. What we have is forever it says. When I was ten, I got to hold on to the note for ten hours. At thirteen, I kept it for thirteen hours. When my time's up, I give it back to him until my next birthday. I always liked getting that note. But I don't believe it no more.

Chapter Three

I don't want to go to school no more. But I go. And I put out the trash every Wednesday night, shovel the pavement when it snows, walk my mom to the corner store when it's dark out, and clean up the house without nobody even asking. I started doing everything right once Jason died, 'cause my mom couldn't take no more trouble. Only the closer it gets to his birthday, or the day he was shot, the more I can't do like I promised her-make it so she never got a reason to cry over me too.

The only one who knows how I really feel about stuff is Kee-lee. We walk to school together. We tease Keisha, a girl Kee-lee likes, and get on our teachers' nerves asking questions that don't have nothing to do with the classes they're teaching.

"I ain't going," Kee-lee says when I get to his house. He lives up the street from me. We supposed to be headed to school, like every morning. He takes a smoke from behind his ear and lights up. "I'm tired of school."

I sit down on the new rocker his mother bought off a man driving a truck full of frozen chicken and steaks, gold chains, hats, and porch furniture. "You always saying that."

Kee-lee can hold smoke in his mouth a long time, so it takes him a while to answer. "My mom says I can quit school if I want." He walks past me with no shirt on and sits on the front steps in his horse-head pajama bottoms. "Hey, Keisha," he says, calling to her across the street. "Want some of this?" He shows her his tongue.

Her middle finger goes up. "Brush your rotten teeth, stank mouth." She goes back into her house. Kee-lee laughs and says he knows she likes him.

When Kee-lee smiles you see green sitting right next to yellow, and thick white clumps packed close to the gums like hard sugar. Girls don't say hi when he walks up to them. They say, "I'll. Brush your teeth." He brushes them now. But it's too late. The stuff won't come off. Him and me tried. We used a fingernail file once. It made his gums swell up and bleed.

We get back to talking about school, and Kee-lee says he's dropping out for sure. That's when the triplets-Mary, Martin, and Moses-come out the house. "Me too," they say, lining up like they in school, opening the door up wide and going back inside. Kee-lee's got seven brothers and sisters.

I wait for the triplets to come back out. They don't. I tell Kee-lee he better make them go to school. "Or your mother's gonna be mad."

"Who's gonna tell?"

I would never tell on Kee-lee, because he would never tell on me. And he knows stuff about me too. Like how on the day Jason died I ran to his place and cut my wrist with a knife. It was a little knife, but it drew blood. And one time I got so mad over Jason dying that I took rocks to the cocker spaniel in Mrs. Seymour's yard. Almost killed it. Only Kee-lee knows that. And he ain't telling.

Right when I get up to leave, Mary comes outside with a needle and thread. She hands 'em to Kee-lee, then sits in his lap, hugging him around the middle. He licks the thread. Sticks it through the needle hole. Knots it. Then sews up the square hole in the side of the shorts she handed him.

She jumps off his lap. "Thanks."

He smacks her butt, yelling after her, "Y'all don't make no mess in there."

Kee-lee's mom works in the factory way across town. She takes three buses and works double shifts sometimes. So even if he wanted, he couldn't get to school every day nohow. Some days he stays home with a sick kid or washes and irons their clothes for school the next day. His mom dropped out in the ninth grade. So did his grandmother and grandfather. So when Kee-lee says he's quitting, it's not that big a deal, I guess.

"Listen. I gotta go."

Kee-lee covers his mouth when he talks, so I don't think I really hear what I'm hearing when he tells me that they killed Moo Moo last night. Moo Moo is his cousin, and like a brother to me.

"He was sitting in his friend's ride, minding his own business." Kee-lee's got this funny look in his eye. "The guy next door told us first. He saw it on the eleven o'clock news."

Bang! The gun goes off in my head.

"I didn't hear about it," I fell him. "We don't watch the news no more."

Kee-lee and me say it at the same time. "We is the news."

It's a joke. Him and me used to say we were gonna be reporters. Take a camera through the neighborhood and show people what it's really like living here, being us. We were gonna call it We Is the News -Life in the 'Hood. But then we didn't have a camera. And anyhow, nobody would pay us for stuff they see every night on the TV for free.

"So I figure," Kee-lee says, "if I'm gonna die, why I gotta waste the time I do got sitting in school learning stuff l won't use?"

I need to get to school, but I don't move. I'm hoping Kee-lee's gonna say he was lying about Moo Moo. So I sit and remember how good he was to me. How him and me painted the porch up the block and made fifty bucks each. He would do stuff like that. Come and get me and Kee-lee. Take us on a job. Let us make some dough sweeping up or washing walls. He talked to me about my dad, too. He always said, "Mann. Give him time. It takes a while to get used to having a piece of you die."

I stand up. Walk down the steps and turn back Kee-lee's way. "Why'd he have to die?"

Moo Moo was twenty-eight. He wasn't all good, but he wasn't all bad neither. But around here, it don't matter. People get killed, good or bad, big or little.

Kee-lee's eyes tear up. I ask the question again, but I don't expect no answer. "Why ... Why'd Moo Moo have to die?"

"That's just how it goes around here," Kee-lee says. "You get killed. Just 'cause."


Excerpted from BANG! by SHARON G. FLAKE Copyright © 2005 by Sharon G. Flake. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 44 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 44 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 16, 2012

    Two years ago Mann’s brother Jason was shot. He was shot f

    Two years ago Mann’s brother Jason was shot. He was shot for no reason while playing on the porch. People get killed in Mann’s town all the time for no reason. Mann’s parents were scared he was going to get killed next. They said he needed to become a man. Mann’s father read about an African tradition, how they left their sons in the wilderness to become men. Mann’s father took him and his friend Keelee on a camping trip. They woke up the next morning and Mann’s father was gone. He took the truck and left them there, stranded in the wilderness. He wanted them to become men and find their own way home. Will they survive in the wilderness? Will they find their way home? Or will they be killed on the way?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Never wanted to put it down!

    Im one of those people that dont read alot but i couldnt stop reading it. Awesome book!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 25, 2011


    I love this book , i ra,ead it about 5 and it mever gets old

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 6, 2011

    Eye opener for young people

    Shows how farr a father will go to make his boy a man

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 13, 2011

    Best ever

    Great book

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 10, 2011


    this book is great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 29, 2010

    Stunning. Shocking. Surprising.

    During fall break I finished my book Bang! by Sharon G. Flake . I would say this book is really interesting, full of vivid pictures, and situations where you can just put yourself into. This book is about living in "The hood", the situations you face and the many murders and shootings there are on an everyday basis. The main character in this book is named Mann. He experienced a shooting at a really young age; he saw how it all occur. To make the experience even more horrifying, Mann didn't just witness anyone's death; it was his own brother's. After the murder, he would never enter through his front porch because he would just have flashbacks, replays, of that horrible day. Losing a member of the family, destroyed the rest of his family. Mann's dad began to treat him badly, eventually attempting to abandon him and his best friend. This book made me wonder how parents can treat their children so horribly. It also made me realize that when parents neglect to take care of their kids correctly, the kids continue on a bad path. Because Mann had no coping skills when his brother died, and his family did not help him through it, he eventually gets into some major trouble-actually recreating the situation with his brother, but this time, he wasn't the victim or the witness. I would recommend this book to People who are really into action, dramatic, and intense books, Who just don't want to let the book down!

    -Magali Medina.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Bang! A Review by Matt

    Guns! That's what you hear when you live in Mann's neighborhood. Mann knew what it was like to grow up in a place where all you saw was violence. He has heard of many people dying and has seen some people die in front of him like his brother Jason. Jason was seven years old when he got shot. He was on his front porch playing with his green little army men when a guy out of nowhere came running up the porch trying to escape from another man who was trying to kill him. Bang! My brother was gone right in front of me.
    What I liked about this book was how the title caught my eye and all the violence one boy could go through. I like the way they described the art when the boys were painting. I liked it how Mann could live on his own and survive and not have to depend on his family. Another good part about this book was how they still kept Jason in their minds and hearts by reminiscing and celebrating him. Even though Mann's dad was harsh on him, he just wanted Mann to become strong and smart about what he would encounter in the world.
    What I disliked about the book was how in some parts it didn't want to make me read on. Overall I liked the book, and I give it a rating of 7, with 10 being the highest.
    I highly recommend this book to teens that like to read about the hood and the problems they have around there. This book can relate to so many kids who have problems just like the characters in this book. It also shows what happens when mean people get a hold of guns and what harm they can do with them. It also shows what a family goes through when they loose a loved one.
    This probably is not a good book for people who don't like to read about deaths and shootings, or for someone who disagrees with the way the dad raised his son after the other son's death. If you are squeamish about blood and how they talk about drugs, this is not a good book for you to read.
    Other books I recommend are:
    Any of the Calvin and Hobbes comic books, by Bill Watterson.
    The collection of "Get Fuzzy" comic books, by Darby Conley.
    "Charlie Brown" comic books, by Charles M. Schulz's.
    If you read any of these books you will get a kick out of them.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2014

    Best Book Yet!!!!!!!!!!!!

    This book will make you want a another one made. GET WITH THE PROGRAM SHARON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 22, 2014


    I only read the sample and this book is encouraging me to read more!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2013

    Mann be a Man Sharon G. Flakes ¿Bang!¿ Mann is a young teenager

    Mann be a Man
    Sharon G. Flakes “Bang!” Mann is a young teenager who has had to deal with the loss of many of his close friends, relatives, but his biggest loss was his little brother Jason who died two years ago. He is a great artist along with his best friend Kee-Lee. They both live in the same rural neighborhood and only want to make money. As Mann grows in this book he starts to become more influenced by Kee-Lee who smokes and doesn’t really like school or attending it. Life is tough for the both of them and the best advice the have is Mann’s dad. Throughout the book Mann’s father stays “I’ve already lost one son, and I can’t lose another,” he also talks about how Jason was too much of a momma’s boy and if he wasn’t he’d probably still be alive. The words may sound harsh but in the context, the feeling is different each and every time he says it.
    When Mann’s father takes notice of their changing habits, he begins to take both of the boys on crazy adventures that literally force the boys to become his version of real men. His version isn’t the smartest idea but it sets the boys into a new mood which allows the book to flow into an entirely different direction.
    This novel deals with mourning of deaths, depression, working hard, coming of age, happiness, love, and hate. The mixed emotions really are the core of the story based around Jason. In comparison to most books dealing with the loss of a loved one, it completely different because of the way the characters handle it, the symbolism from some of Jason’s toys really allows the reader to think of their meaning and where they come from. Also the title “Bang!” comes into the book often, from the gunshot that Mann heard when Jason was killed, to the other gunshots he hears throughout his neighborhood. The flow just urges you to want to read more and more.

    This book is beneficial in two ways; it can be relatable to the reader allowing a heart to heart connection with Mann, or it could be a learning experience. Weather its teaching the reader about a side of life that’s rougher than what they are accustomed too, or it can just be a relatable book. The way Flake arranges it and makes it so unpredictable, events unfolding that would never be expected or predicted. It is highly recommended for a reader searching for a novel with drama, excitement, and unpredictable.

    P. Snipes, 14

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    I read this book in 2011

    I read this book in 7th grade and its great ! Mann's character is really touching. He's deep and Sharon really expressed how it is to lose a loved one. In the story Mann somehow finds a safe haven away from all the bad things in his and things he has done. Its amazing how this author can create a fictional story yet make it seem so realistic.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2012


    Nice talkin with ya tata

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2012

    I read the sample

    I only read the sample but it made me cry. Understand this though i am a very emotional person and i cried watching lion king and giftedd hands

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013


    I don't even know what to say!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2013


    Im sorry!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2012


    A must get

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 21, 2012


    Dad want bring tehe baby omg!! -_____-

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2012


    Dis book is awsome n is inspringing

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2012


    I've only read the sample and I can tell that this book is going to be amazing and outstanding, but at the same time it is a real-life story, this book is on my wishlist and I am totally going to get this bok! -Milan Smith

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