Reviews for Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam

Leah (Jane Speare)'s review
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5.0

Outstanding, necessary story. Beautiful exploration of art and rage and expression in the most terrible of circumstances. Written in verse and full of illustrations, it’s a very interactive experience living with Amal in the juvenile detention center.

I hope this gets to the hands that need it, Black kids stuck in prison for crimes they did not commit. They need the hope. I’m glad the publisher arranged it so paperback copies of this book will be printed immediately in order for prisons to allow it within their walls.

BookBeforeULeap 's review
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4.0

This was a really solid piece of YA fiction written in free verse. I felt like it really captured the emotions that Amal would have been feeling and gave an insight into life in prison.

The authors note at the end was amazing and I had no idea going in that one of the authors had actually been imprisoned for a crime that he did not commit.

Bookphenomena (Micky) 's review
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4.0

This book made my heart hurt. A short story, told in verse, drawing on Yusef Salaam’s experiences and channeled into Amal, a young man wrongly convicted of a crime. Injustice and justice was on the menu here and the use of verse poignantly reverberated the message.

So
I am ink
He is paper…
I am criminal
He is victim
I am alive
He is almost dead
I am black
He is white


The narrative in this novel had a moment-to-moment feeling that was pretty tension ridden and I read much of it with that sense of doom and despair conveyed by Amal’s feelings. There were some areas of the book that I felt were particularly impactful – both sides defendant and perpetrator were the same age, yet one was referred to as a boy and the other a man. That point really hit me deep. There were many more examples but I don’t want to spoil.

All of this book is relevant for now, for 2020 and beyond, I am sure. It couldn’t be a better time to pick this up amongst your menu of BIPOC fiction and it would complement anyone’s plan to educate themselves more.

The illustrations/formatting didn’t come across particularly well on the ebook galley but now I have a hard copy, I can appreciate how wonderful the formatting and design is.

Please make sure to also check out some black reviewers on this book.

Thank you to Harper Collins Childrens for this early review copy.

This review can be found on A Take From Two Cities Blog.

AziDearest's review
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challenging emotional hopeful reflective sad fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters centre-stage? It's complicated

4.0

 This was a beautiful narrative in every respect and absolutely accomplished it's goal. 


Expand filter menu Collapse filter menu Content Warnings

Graphic: Racism

Moderate: Police brutality

Sidbookreviews's review
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challenging emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters centre-stage? Yes

5.0

Review to come!

Bluebirdreads's review
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challenging dark emotional informative reflective fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters centre-stage? Yes

5.0


Expand filter menu Collapse filter menu Content Warnings

Moderate: Confinement, Racial slurs, Racism, and Violence

scseward 's review
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emotional informative inspiring sad fast-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters centre-stage? Yes

5.0

thefeministbookworm's review
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5.0

INCREDIBLE.

serendipitysbooks's review
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challenging emotional informative reflective sad medium-paced

5.0

Punching the Air is a collaboration between an award winning author and a prison reformer who was wrongfully imprisoned as a teen. So you know that this novel in verse, about a young Black teen who was wrongfully imprisoned is a great read, not only stylistically but also in terms of accuracy and authenticity.

I opted to listen while reading along, which was a great choice. Poetry is designed to be heard but looking at the text increased by appreciation, especially of the concrete or shape poems.

The novel begins with Amal’s trial and takes us through his sentencing and incarceration. Poems that relate to the events leading up to this are interspersed so an accurate picture builds up slowly.

Much of the thematic content won’t be new to anyone who has been paying attention. Overall it is a searing indictment of systemic racism, especially as it relates to the incarceration of Black youth. A few points really stood out to me. One major one was the difference in the public discourse about white youth vs that about Black youth, even when the behaviours were identical. Another was the parallels between slavery and the so-called justice system. Neither are new but both were powerfully highlighted in this book. Another, that might seem minor but really, really isn’t, was the existence of an officer with a horribly offensive racist tattoo.

What the book does so well is personalise all of this and really make the reader feel what it would be like to have your future changed because of a wrongful conviction, to lose control of your life and to be treated in such contemptuous manner. The disbelief, the anger, the hopeless, the fear, the frustration is all powerfully conveyed.

Highly recommended, especially for fans of Angie Thomas, Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo.

readalongwithnat's review
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5.0

CW: racism

This book is absolutely phenomenal.

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