Billy Bonney is a likable sometimes rowdy fellow down on his luck when he crosses paths with three mean-looking men who call themselves the "Smiths." After a tense initial confrontation, he becomes a part of their train heist near his old hometown. Soon after, he finds himself marked as an outlaw and on the run not only from the local lawmanhis cousin, Sheriff Willis Monroebut also from his former partners in crime. Readers will be drawn in from the beginning by the author's attention to detail in creating both the characters and the landscape and will stay captivated through to the dramatic end. Even though this is a fictionalized account based upon a real outlaw, it is believable and one almost wishes it were true. There is an author's note at the conclusion on the real life of William H. "Billy the Kid" Bonney, Jr. There is small amount of cursing in the book in order, one presumes, to make the dialogue seem more authentic. This is a highly recommended work not as a historical resource but simply for the pure pleasure of reading. 2005, Harcourt, Ages 12 up.
When a job "discouraging" castle rustlers on a Mexican cattle ranch turns sour, nineteen-year-old Billy Bonney heads north into Arizona and joins a band of train robbers. Billy soon finds himself crossways of both the law and the lawless, however. A train passenger recognizes and identifies him, and soon Sheriff Willis Monroe, Billy's cousin and boyhood hero, begins a dogged but reluctant manhunt. Meanwhile Billy's fellow robbers mount a failed attempt to murder him over his share of the ill-gotten gains, and Billy is soon on the run from both good guys and bad. When a ruthless land baron sends a gunslinger to ambush Willis along the trail, it is only Billy's "blinding speed" with a six-iron that can save him, but in the end Billy must pay the ultimate sacrifice. In his author's note, Taylor makes no bones about his intentions or about the accuracy of this fictionalized account of a Western legend, Billy the Kid: "My fictional Billy the Kid bears little resemblance to the cold and ruthless Billy of legend. I tried to give my Billy a charming personality and a zest for life, making him a sort of "heart of gold" outlaw-as well as a young man destined for a gunslinger's death." Taylor's archetypal story is intensely motivated by his own experiences with the cowboy "picture show" heroes of his youth. Although no one knows for sure how many men William Bonney killed (was it really twenty?), nor how old he was (was he really only nineteen?), the mythic proportions of his legendary life are done justice (just as Pat Garrett bestowed justice on the real Billy the Kid in 1881) in this delightful book. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P M J S (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YAappeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2005, Harcourt, 211p., $17. Ages 11 to 18.
To quote the review of the hardcover in KLIATT, May 2005: Honey-tongued sharpshooter Billy Bonney Jr. is only 19, but he's already down on his luck and flat broke. His luck becomes even worse when he meets an older outlaw and his two nasty sons and gets talked into pulling a train robbery with them. They try to cheat Billy out of his share, and he shoots one son; the two other men chase after Billy to get revenge and the loot. Even worse, the law goes after Billy too, in the form of Sheriff Willis Monroe--Billy's cousin and closest friend. The suspenseful manhunt through Arizona Territory in 1881 is on, and the relationship between outlaw Billy and his sheriff cousin gives it the depth of a classic tragedy. Taylor, the author of The Cay and other acclaimed YA novels, makes the details vivid, and this action-filled Western is a sterling example of the genre. In an author's note at the end, Taylor tells about the real Billy the Kid, carefully pointing out that his charming, doomed fictional Billy doesn't resemble the real-life cold-blooded killer. KLIATT Codes: JS*--Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students. 2005, Harcourt, 208p., $6.95.. Ages 12 to 18.
Gr 5-8-A fictional account of a legendary figure. Readers find Billy sweltering in a tiny Arizona town with not much more than the dirty clothes on his back and eight dollars in pocket change. Hoping to turn his fortune around, he takes part in his first train robbery near his hometown. What starts off as a surefire way to get cash turns sour fast. Billy is recognized during the heist, and his cohorts are wanted criminals who try to cheat him. And the lawman responsible for bringing him to justice is his best friend and cousin, Willis Monroe. This twisting tale is full of horses, guns, greed, betrayal, regret, and love. A subplot featuring a feud between Willis and a local rancher gives the story an added dimension. Taylor's colorful descriptions and authentic language solidly anchor the setting in the Southwest. While at times slowing the pace, the character development and back story give the tale depth and complexity, which saves it from becoming a superficial shoot 'um-up Western. Taylor doesn't romanticize the events. Once Billy makes his decision to be a train robber and gunslinger, nothing, not even his winning smile and charming ways, can save him from his fate. An author's note explains Taylor's reasons for writing the story and gives a synopsis of the outlaw's real life. This story has definite appeal for readers interested in the era or those looking for a different kind of action book.-Catherine Callegari, San Antonio Public Library, TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
"Has definite appeal for readers interested in the era or those looking for a different kind of action book."--School Library Journal
"A rippin' good read."--The Bulletin