Secret Saturdays

( 4 )


An urban novel with the power and intensity of Walter Dean Myers's books

Sean is Justin's best friend - or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He's been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean's been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his ...

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Secret Saturdays

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An urban novel with the power and intensity of Walter Dean Myers's books

Sean is Justin's best friend - or at least Justin thought he was. But lately Sean has been acting differently. He's been telling lies, getting into trouble at school, hanging out with a tougher crowd, even getting into fights. When Justin finally discovers that Sean's been secretly going to visit his father in prison and is dealing with the shame of that, Justin wants to do something to help before his friend spirals further out of control. But will trying to save Sean jeopardize their friendship? Should Justin risk losing his best friend in order to save him?

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Editorial Reviews

Rita Williams Garcia
“Torrey Maldonado sticks his finger in an all too familiar hole of a brokenhearted urban community. Playground tough with a sweet center.”—Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning and New York Times bestselling author of One Crazy Summer
The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books (BCCB)
“This urban tale explores inner-city life for a middle school audience with sympathy and humor, while underscoring the emotional effects of hardship on the characters’ lives…readers will find both insight and hope in Justin’s efforts to help his friend.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books (BCCB)
Library Media Connection
“This is a story of friendship, survival, deception and relationships…a fast read, entertaining and high interest.”—Library Media Connection
Publishers Weekly
Sixth-graders Justin and Sean have been best friends since fourth grade and have a lot in common: raised in Brooklyn projects by their mothers, they're both half black/half Puerto Rican and share a love of rapping. So when Sean starts sneaking away with his mother on Saturday morning trips and increasingly acting like a bully, Justin feels a rift forming. Debut author Maldonado convincingly portrays roughneck playgrounds where boys are expected to be “hard,” and to “[d]is or get dissed on.” Justin's narration resonates with the authenticity of a preteen doing his best in an urban landscape that has taught him all he knows: “It sucks not having a father or uncle, because I see boys out here playing football and doing things with their dads and uncles. I have to do that stuff with my mother. Which is cool. But kind of gay too.” There are some heavy-handed moments—a TV talk show about male emotions helps Justin decide to speak with Sean about his feelings—but the book remains a moving portrayal of the hope to be found through honest relationships. Ages 10-up. (Apr.)
Its infectiously readable, and its characters are sympathetically and memorably realized.
Children's Literature - Lois Rubin Gross
Justin and Sean have always been best friends. In their Red Hook, Brooklyn neighborhood—one of New York's poorest—friendship means covering each other's backs and keeping each other's secrets. Sean, however, is no longer sharing his secrets. Each Saturday, he and his mother go off to a destination that he will not reveal to Justin and their other friends, Kyle and Vanessa. When Sean's behavior at school changes, Justin suspects something is wrong in Sean's life, and he sets out to discover the truth. Told through street jargon (a glossary might have been helpful) and rap lyrics, this story at its core is simply about middle school friendships and the importance that young teens place on being part of a group. It is also an insightful look at an urban neighborhood where women anchor the family units and life can be a daily struggle to stay afloat. Remarkably, the author, while writing in urban slang, conveys toughness without using vulgarity. Occasionally symbolism lacks subtlety (i.e. a broken mirror in a nightmare represents to Justin that Sean is a reflection of himself). Overall, it is an engrossing look at a diametrically different America than found in novels like Gossip Girls; one with mean streets and mean boys but one in which friendship transcends personal hardship. Reviewer: Lois Rubin Gross
Susan Weinstein
Middle school best friends Sean and Justin excel at schoolwork, love writing raps, and live in the same housing project. But when Sean starts taking mysterious weekend trips, hanging with older kids, and bullying classmates, Justin worries. Secret Saturdays is about friendship and about how to talk to someone you care about when they're pushing you away. The book plays with form, interspersing rap lyrics with prose. This should appeal to young rap fans, though it is sometimes difficult to really "hear" a rap on the page, and the lyrics can seem so plot-focused that they read more like journal entries than songs. In addition, the story's central mystery—where does Sean go on those weekend trips?—might not be that mysterious for readers familiar with the effects of urban poverty. Despite these flaws, Secret Saturdays is a pleasant read with engaging characters to whom many middle schoolers will relate. Reviewer: Susan Weinstein
School Library Journal
Gr 5–8—Justin and Sean, both 12, live in the Red Hook projects, are half Puerto Rican and half African American, and have absentee fathers. They became friends when Sean stuck up for Justin, but now Sean is straying further from their friendship, avoiding their scheduled sleepovers, lying, and not doing as well in school. He's been getting into more and more fights when he used to advocate dissing instead of fists. Where is Sean going on Saturdays? Why isn't he telling his friends Justin, Kyle, and Vanessa? Justin heads up the squad to find out why, but with more drama than action, and readers may not care. Justin worries, on more than one occasion, that because he's so concerned about Sean people are going to think he's gay. There's also the possibility that Sean's dad is gay—Justin's reasoning is that he sends Sean shiny trinkets from Puerto Rico. He also inaccurately portrays his cousin as gay because he dresses up in women's clothes and wants to be called Vicky. While these fallacies go unaddressed, Maldonado does explore what it means to be a friend, the nature of privacy, and how difficult it is for boys to talk with one another. With so few books out for urban middle school boys of color besides the "Bluford" series (Townsend), this book, with all its flaws, may still be a draw for some readers. The cover, type size, and format, with cool font and a photo at the head of each chapter, will attract reluctant readers, but the content may not sustain them.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, Oakland, CA
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142417478
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 4/12/2012
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 272,519
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: HL580L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Torrey Maldonado is a teacher born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, where he still lives. Secret Saturdays is inspired by his life and the experiences of his students.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2012

    Making mew chat room from charile


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  • Posted June 13, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo

    Friendship can be tricky. BFF has certain conditions that it sometimes takes a lifetime to understand. Being there for a friend seems simple - until it's not. Justin and Sean have a lot in common. Both are half Black and half Puerto Rican. Both are being raised by single mothers intent on raising good, upstanding sons. Both are good students and behave in school. However, all that is beginning to change. Justin knows that Sean is an expert at dissing. Sean's mother has always said disputes should be handled with words, not fists. Recently, Sean's words have become vicious and are handing out hurts that sting as much as punches. Sean's taunts are aimed at kids without fathers or at those with deadbeat dads. This gives him plenty of targets, but Justin wonders about the fact that Sean's own dad is absent from his life. When Justin and another buddy, Kyle, witness Sean and his mother leaving the housing project in the wee hours of the morning, they feel a bit betrayed, since Sean was supposed to have been with them for the evening. When the two friends confront Sean, he boldly lies. That lie is just the beginning. What follows is even more shocking for those who care about Sean. His behavior is changing dramatically. His taunts have turned to fist-fights resulting in detentions and even a suspension from school. His grades tank as the mysterious trips with his mother continue. Justin doesn't understand how best friends who previously trusted each other with everything can have secrets like the ones Sean is keeping. Debut author Torrey Maldonado takes on teens and teen relationships in the inner city. He has firsthand knowledge of just how tough it is to grow up surrounded by negative influences and how hard it is to resist temptation when there is no male role model to look up to. Justin and Sean and their other friends realistically depict the difficult times friends can face when it comes to family and secrets meant to save face or protect. Maldonado presents his story so readers can feel both sides of the situation as they listen to Justin's narration and as they try to puzzle out Sean's secret life.

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  • Posted June 12, 2011



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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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