Polak, Monique. Straight Punch. Orca 2014 249p $12.95 ISBN 978-1-4598-0391-6 ms/hs High/Low, Conflict VG
Tessa McPhail tags to express herself, but graffiti is illegal, and after she is caught too many times she is sent to New Directions, an unusual alternative school on Montreal’s bad side. At New Directions, students spend half the day learning to box in order to learn to channel their aggression in a controlled and disciplined manner. At first this is very difficult for Tessa, who was caught in a hockey riot several years back and traumatized by the violence. Gradually, however, with the support of her eclectic and troubled classmates, including a fellow tagger who goes by the moniker Pretty Boy, she gains more confidence in herself and learns to enjoy the boxing lessons. This realization about boxing, however, comes just in time for everything and everyone in Tessa’s life to turn against New Directions: her boyfriend doesn’t want her there, her mother worries about her being there, and the neighborhood the school is in wants to see it closed down because it is judged that the students may introduce a criminal element to the neighborhood. Tessa’s struggles are interesting, but the supporting characters are also intriguing: flamboyant Pretty Boy’s older brothers used him to break and enter, Jasmine’s aunt is gambling away the inheritance left her by her parents, Randy has a learning disability, Whisky is an alcoholic, and Di is pregnant. The characters are very real, and readers will find the story engaging. They may also be inspired to take up boxing.
School-Fiction, Self-Esteem-Fiction --Bethany Geleskie