Guardian by Julian Lester

A white boy in in 1946 witnesses a lynching.

While the subject matter of Guardian is powerful, the approach is heavy-handed, and I don’t think it has anything new to say about racial violence. It’s certainly no To Kill A Mockingbird, and honestly I would be disappointed if a teen picked up this book instead of that one, just because it’s new.

The characters are thin to the point of caricature, and there is such a sharp distinction between the good guys and the bad guys as to make it impossible for a reader to interrogate his or her own prejudices. The central act of violence really frustrated me, because it was so extreme that it was hard to understand how a town would want to shelter such a monster, powerful father or not. Evil and hatred is so much more insidious than all that.

However, I give teen readers a lot of credit, in that they don’t tend to get hung up on lazy writing when big issues are at stake. And since we have yet to eradicate racism from American society, it’s good for them to be reading books on this topic.

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