Blood Brothers

216p. Dundurn. Feb. 2017. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781459737464; ebk. $8.99. ISBN 9781459737488.
Gr 8 Up—A friendship forged in the streets is put to the ultimate test in Nelson's urban drama. By day, Jakub and Lincoln are seemingly ordinary teenagers in their down-on-its-luck neighborhood. By night, they assume alternate identities—graffiti artists Morf and Scar—as they paint and tag their way across the city. But then things change: Lincoln's bad-tempered older brother, Henry, comes home from prison at the same time that Jakub is accepted on a scholarship to an exclusive prep school on the other side of town. From there, the two boys go down predictable paths. Jakub buys a secondhand blazer and tries to fit in at the school, while Lincoln begins running the streets for Henry. The story focuses primarily on Lincoln as he follows his brother into a seedy underworld of drugs, stolen cars, and, eventually, murder. Jakub's fish-out-of-water tale at the prep school is almost entirely abandoned as he concentrates instead on dealing with the fallout from Lincoln's bad decision-making. There are no surprises with the plot and characters, some of whom fall into typecast roles: Henry is all bad; Jakub's Polish immigrant father, purely noble. Lincoln's moral dilemmas feel believable, though, as do Jakub's frustrated attempts to help him, and readers who stick with this bleak narrative will be rewarded with an aptly dark ending that gives the book extra emotional weight.
VERDICT A good supplement to a high-interest collection for reluctant teen readers.

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