The Price of Loyalty

Overview

This riveting novel about peer pressure and core values highlights a hot-button topic.When Manny moves on to Raleigh Middle School, he's relieved that he'll be with his other Latino friends from elementary school. Hanging out with his vatos is great; but before Manny knows it, kids are calling the clique the Emperors and saying that they are a gang. Gradually Alex, whose older brother is in prison, starts calling the shots, and the pressure is on Manny—first to shave his head and tag the neighborhood and then to ...

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Overview

This riveting novel about peer pressure and core values highlights a hot-button topic.When Manny moves on to Raleigh Middle School, he's relieved that he'll be with his other Latino friends from elementary school. Hanging out with his vatos is great; but before Manny knows it, kids are calling the clique the Emperors and saying that they are a gang. Gradually Alex, whose older brother is in prison, starts calling the shots, and the pressure is on Manny—first to shave his head and tag the neighborhood and then to get drugs for the vatos. Close calls with the authorities become more and more frequent, and Manny can see where it's all headed. Does he have the guts to turn his back on his oldest friends so he can keep clean?

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Debut novelist Castan offers a solidly written, if predictable and largely consequence-free story of one boy's efforts to avoid succumbing to gang life. Seventh-grader Manny loves hanging out with his longtime buddies, and when their clique gets called "The Conquistadors," he assumes it's all in good fun. But when his friends—led by tough kids Hernan and Cisco—start causing fights, disrupting class, and shaving their heads, Manny feels obligated to go along with them (although he conveniently avoids hurting anyone himself). He is torn between the friends he's had forever, the anti-gang opinions of new girlfriend Henrietta (curiously, none of the girls in the novel have any gang involvement), and Manny's "abuela," a former babysitter taking care of him while his parents are in Mexico. These tensions only intensify when the gang asks him to procure drugs from a classmate. Because Manny avoids conflicts and refrains from committing any violence himself, readers may question his driving need for personal absolution; Castan delivers a straightforward story that deprives its protagonist's eventual redemption of significant meaning. Ages 12–up. (Aug.)
VOYA - Alicia Abdul
The lure of gang life ensnares many young boys, but quietly humble Manny, a middle school student in Los Angeles, is content living with his abuela while his parents work in Mexico. He plays video games, and excells at school while he pursues a young neighborhood girl. Though passively, Manny has become affiliated with the Conquistadores, a gang of three childhood friends. To demonstrate his loyalty, he regretfully shaves his head and tags walls that earn him a reputation by default. But, as his conscience badgers to talk, in this authentic first person narrative, readers know that Manny's heart is not in it. Not surprisingly, this hero must fall and Manny becomes a runner of drugs for his gang that graduated to smoking pot and inflicting terror at school. His scrupulous personality clearly grapples with the decision to rat on his friends. The conclusion does not disappoint and demonstrates the hierarchy of middle school and gang life, though also the influence of meaningful relationships. Manny proves commanding enough to make Castan's first novel successful. With resonant characters and an introspective plot, investing in the book, which is slow at times, means unwrapping Manny's thoughts and actions. Castan gets it and should continue to share his talents with readers. Reviewer: Alicia Abdul
Children's Literature - Meagan Eudy
Manny has just entered middle school as a seventh grader and quickly becomes involved with the Conquistadors, a group which he helps to form, not knowing it would become a gang. Once word gets out about the gang, Manny lies when peers ask him if he is a member. One day the other gang members want Manny to hook them up with herb. Although he does not want to get involved with that, he does it anyway. One night at a big party, two of the bad guys get seriously injured and must be hospitalized. Manny knows what really happened, but he is scared to rat on them because he knows what the Conquistadors do to rats. Mike Castan includes a lot of detail to make the book a play-by-play of Manny’s everyday life. For example, Castan starts from the beginning of the day when Manny is getting ready for school, follows him at school and after school, letting readers know everything that happens during the day—even the weather outside. The reader knows each character’s every move and Manny’s thoughts. This book shows that when you put yourself in hard situations, you may not always get out cleanly. The decisions you make and the people with whom you hang out really have an influence on you and your reputation. Readers are sure to find this book interesting. Reviewer: Meagan Eudy; Ages 10 up.
School Library Journal
Gr 7–9—Transitioning to a big middle school can be hard, but Manny has his friends from elementary school with him. He lives with his "American Abuela" in the urban city of Orbe Nuevo, gets good grades, and stays out of trouble. During the first weeks of school, Manny and his friends hang out together and other kids start calling them a gang. The boys like what they hear and they decide to call themselves the "Conquistadors," a Latino-only gang. An innocent beginning soon turns into a daily struggle for Manny as he tackles maintaining a gang image while still staying out of trouble. Loyalty to his friends is the priority and being a "rat" is to be avoided at all costs. Life gets more complicated when the gang starts using drugs and alcohol and turns violent. Two boys get seriously injured and Manny struggles with deciding whether or not to tell the truth about what happened. A short cautionary tale with simple prose, this book will speak to kids who have had to make difficult decisions about friendship and loyalty versus doing what is right. While it may appeal mainly to urban Latino readers, it delivers a good message.—Mindy Whipple, West Jordan Library, UT
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780823422685
  • Publisher: Holiday House, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/8/2011
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 940,331
  • Lexile: 690L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

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