Tuesday, April 7, 2009

No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row

Kuklin, Susan. 2008. NO CHOIRBOY: MURDER, VIOLENCE, AND TEENAGERS ON DEATH ROW. New York: Henry Holt. ISBN 0805079505 [Suggested Grade Levels 9-12]

This gritty, no-holds-barred collection of life stories told by teenagers, some of whom are on death row, examines the views and thoughts of the young men who committed violent crimes as they wait out their sentence in prison or for their ultimate fate. Interspersed with their stories are the powerful words and expressions of grief from the families and loved ones of their victims, including those of the inmates’ families.

The book explores the juvenile criminal justice system, capital punishment, and the United States justice system in the original voices of those involved from both sides of the crime in a personal, graphic style. The matter of fact tone of the stories by the teens takes an objective look at the horror of the crimes and the consequences to all those involved.

The book’s final chapter takes a strong stand against the death penalty. The back matter includes an author’s note, a glossary, further reading, and index. The subject matter makes it a compelling and gut-wrenching read.

The book opens the door to a class discussion or debate of the death penalty, victims’ rights, and teen crime. While some teens may pick up the book for its cover of a tattooed, chain wearing youth, they will continue reading the plain speaking text. This is a high interest book presented in a fascinating way.

Other books for teens about violent crimes and the death penalty:
Gottfried, Ted. THE DEATH PENALTY. ISBN 0761321551
Satterthwaite, Marcia and Austin Sarat. JUVENILE CRIME. ISBN 0791042693

By Shirley Smith Duke

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