☆☆➹⁀☆ 5 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆
What It’s About:
Tristan Lopez is loyal to his brothers. He doesn’t really have a choice, born into a gang that has a chokehold on every kid that roams its streets. He gave his life to them willingly, knowing if he did then one day this kingdom, led by boys drunk with power and ruled by fear, would all be his.
He was loyal through it all. Loyal when prison took his dad away. Loyal when his face was touched by the cold metal of the rival gang’s gun. Loyal even though his mom begged him to run the moment she returned home from rehab.
He thought about becoming someone else. It was hard not to crave the life of a regular 17-year-old. It’s the only reason he stayed in school—to pretend. But he always fell back in line.
Riley Rojas didn’t belong in Tristan’s real world. She should have only been part of the fantasy, one of the many faces he got to pretend with amidst rows of metal chairs and desks and whiteboards with assignments. But there she was, moving boxes from the back of an old pick-up into a house Tristan had shot up on a dare with his friends only a few months before.
Tall enough to look him in the eyes and strong enough to fill his shadow, Riley took up space on his streets, her loud mouth fearless in the face of the gang leaders who terrified everyone else. She pushed Tristan around on the hard court, and she balled better than his friends—better than him sometimes. She challenged him. She needed him. He liked it. And when her pale blue eyes stared into his, he quit wanting to pretend.
He couldn’t ask her to leave because she’d only dig her heels in deeper. He couldn’t ask because he didn’t want her to go. She was blurring his lines. She was testing his loyalty.
He was falling in love.
And it was going to tear him apart.
Cry Baby is the heartbreaking story of a young man trapped in gang life and the unlikely “angel” who lights the path to redemption.
Ginger Scott has written a heart-wrenching story of life in a gang-run neighborhood. The danger after dark is palpable. The constant threat felt real; the antagonists were feral. The kids trying to live something close to a normal life—playing ball in the park—while following careful protocol in order to stay alive tore me up. The moms and their constant worry had me in knots.
The story is told in dual narration by the main characters. Riley Rojas is a strong, female lead. She is a tomboy who is being raised by her dad. She is focused on her goals of getting to college on a basketball scholarship. As a tomboy, she makes a <i>very</i> interesting female lead. Tristan Lopez, the other narrator, has grown up believing he has no choice in his destiny. His dad and “uncle” Dub started the gang, so he believes he is heir apparent. He has seen everything, and he has participated in as little as possible. He does just enough to keep himself useful and alive without straying too far amiss of his moral compass. Therein lies the problem; he has a moral compass. However, until Riley shows up in his neighborhood, Tristan doesn’t have the chutzpah he needs to leave the life.
I loved the focus on friendship. There is a tease of a budding romance, but the circumstances really prevent the main characters from fully exploring the usual high school romance. Realistically, when your daily life in the ‘hood is about survival, the real story is about getting out. Ms. Scott gives her readers that hope. The denouement is not your usual perfect, tied-up-in-bow HEA. Both Tristan and Riley must travel their own paths out of the ‘hood.
From opposite sides of the tracks, Tristan and Riley’s story works. Cry Baby is an atypical romance—I’m not even sure that I would classify Cry Baby as a romance. To me, it is a young adult novel that featured a budding friendship with a smattering of infatuation. The writing is perfect. Ginger Scott’s ability to develop young adult characters and build worlds for their stories never ceases to amaze me. The situations felt real. The dialogue was organic. The epilogue was perfect. An all around emotional, great read.
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