Response

Response by Paul Volponi

Volponi does it again with another short novel that is fast paced and filled with hard-to-answer ethical questions.  Noah and his friends go to an Italian-American neighborhood to steal a Lexus.  Before they are able to, they are jumped by three boys who shout racial epithets and beat Noah’s head in with a baseball bat.  Noah survives the attack and finds himself at the center of a racial controversy.  Was the other boy right to defend their community from theft?  Or was Noah and his friends targeted because they are black? 

The fast-moving prose is interspersed with police interviews of the suspects, adding to the drama.  Volponi does not come up with simple answers to the complicated questions that are raised here.  Part of his skill is in formulating the scenario and the questions but allowing the teen reader to make up their own mind.  Even the attackers are not cardboard, each emerging as a person themselves. 

So much is done in such a short number of pages that it is staggering.  Noah’s own family is not stereotypical at all.  His complicated relationship with the mother of his baby girl is equally deep and complex.   Noah’s eventual response to his attack is nuanced and mature.

Sure to be a popular read among teen boys who have probably already discovered Volponi, this book is appropriate for ages 14-18.