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Byline: The Register-Guard

"The Beast"

By Walter Dean Myers

Scholastic Press, 2003

Ages 13 to 18

Black History Month - observed in February - is over. But the country's most prolific black author has a recent publication that merits attention before moving on.

Walter Dean Myers has published more than 70 books and received awards for half of them, including the distinguished Michael L. Printz award for excellence in young adult literature. Myers' expertise lies in his feel for the young adult novel.

In his latest book, "The Beast," Myers once again delivers. The Beast - based on the half-human, half-bull character, Minotaur - serves as a metaphor for the drugs that "roam the endless corridors ... waiting for the youth upon which it will feed."

The main character is Anthony Witherspoon (aka Spoon), a 17-year-old who grew up in Harlem but is now attending Wallingford Academy in New Haven, Conn. Wallingford is a mostly white prep school where Spoon, who is black, becomes friends with a group of upper-class white students from New York City. Spoon wrestles with the pull between these friends and Gabi, the girl he loves and plans to marry someday. Gabi is an intelligent young woman of Dominican Republic heritage. She wants to go to college, but is faced with many obstacles in her own family - a single mother with cancer and a brother who's been involved with drugs and gangs.

Spoon doesn't return to Harlem during the first semester. His prolonged absence and the stress of her family circumstances have left Gabi feeling that she has lost Spoon and any possibility of attending college. The Beast has a grip on Gabi and she appears to be losing the battle.

When Spoon does return, he's faced with the question of what he can realistically do for Gabi. He also wrestles with the fact that he has changed in those five months and no longer relates to his old friends and neighborhood. This is a story of love and will.

- Nicki Maxwell, librarian, Churchill High School
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Title Annotation:Schools
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 1, 2004
Words:335
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