I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Published by Tor Teen on May 22nd 2018
A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro's Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.
Six years ago, Moss Jefferies' father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media's vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.
Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
Anger is a gift was quite an interesting read. At just over 400 pages there is a lot that goes on but the majority of the action occurs in the final 100 pages. I don’t dislike this book and 3 stars is a positive rating of “I like it” but I think that I went into this book with really high expectations.
Initially, I did not like this book at all and was confused on why it was being referred to as a book about police brutality. I felt that a big part of the book was about Moss’s school and the “safety” measures that the school and the Oakland Police Department are taking at the beginning of the school year. We see a lot of events surrounding random locker checks, the installation of metal detectors, community organizing and protest which in my opinion took up a huge chunk of the novel. I was thinking up to this point that perhaps the book’s title Anger is a Gift was referring to using your anger to do something about the injustices that you see by rallying the community so again I did not see how the book related to police brutality. Yes there were certain scenes in which excessive force is used on the students but I felt that the theme was more about the community getting together and trying to send a message to the school in regards to their opposition to these supposed safety measures and the criminalization of the students. It was slow and dull at times and I really slugged through this.
It wasn’t until about the halfway point that the story seems to shift. After a planned protest goes wrong the story definitely starts to become about police brutality in more ways than one. The second half of the book is very heartbreaking as we see so many injustices that occur that is upsetting and hard to believe that this is our reality. The author really broke my heart with the twist at the halfway point and I was so sad for Moss and all of the pain he has had to endure with the murder of his father 6 years ago and now this…I flew through the second part of the book and could not put it down. The change of events and the subsequent story was really captivating and I had to finish reading to the end.
I did not feel as though this book dealt with the issue of racism as it seemed as though the police brutality extended to everyone not just a specific group of people. I did feel that this issue of police brutality was very overt in which the police just stomp around slugging everyone and being trigger happy which does happen, however I feel as though the real issue that we face today is more subtle and systematic with most of the injustices going on behind the scenes and should be explored as to why are POC are so at risk and their murderers so likely to escape justice.
The good definitely outweighs the bad and the author did so many things right with this book that I enjoyed. I enjoyed the diverse group of characters, no one is left out in Anger is a Gift as we see different races, gender identities, and sexualities. We see characters with two moms, ones adopted by white upper middle class parents and we see with all of the issues that they all deal with. I really enjoyed the friendships and family dynamics in this book. I would have to say that Wanda was my favorite character and I wish she was my mom. I also learned a lot about protests and police measures that are used against protesters that I did not know before.
Problems aside, this is a easy, quick read that packs a huge punch, especially with the events in the end. I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.