“Tap out” Eric Devine

ARC (Advance Reading Copy). To be published September 11, 2012. Running Press Teens. 310 pp.

Dubbed “trailer trash” by his fellow high schoolers because of where he lives, Tony is expected to amount to nothing. He’s grown up with drunken boyfriends beating his mother, having her zone out through meth, and scavenging for food to survive. His best friend Rob has found relief from their daily life through fighting with an organized group at the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) gym. When Tony joins, he finds true happiness and a sense of family for the first time in his life. His principal feels there’s a future for him because of his high IQ, and is willing to try and get him into college. Things are finally looking up for Tony.

Unfortunately, a gang of bikers who deal in meth have other plans for him. He has no choice but to become their drug messenger, then hit man. As he reluctantly rises through their ranks, all the plans he’d hoped to have for his future disappear, and he is left facing the fact that he’ll never be free. Tony is determined to find a way out to make a life for himself, but it seems that everything he does drags him down deeper than ever. Despite everything, a small flicker of hope for a better future still lives in Tony, but the gang is doing everything they can to stamp it out.

This gritting, life-on-the-edge novel of poverty and pain for mature high schoolers is a hard hitting, no holds barred of what it means to struggle and live life on the edge. It is honest, raw and emotional, and deserves a place on every high school and public library bookshelf. Its characters are heavy hitting, and any reader who has experienced even a modicum of pain in their lives can relate and understand their struggles as well as their victories. After you read it, pass it on to someone else. It struck an emotional chord in me.

When life hands you nothing, and you struggle to exist everyday, “Tap Out” gives you a chance to breathe and know there’s light at the end of your tunnel. Keep on keeping on. Don’t give up.

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