Book Review: Hammond by Jonathan LaPoma

***I received an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) so I could give an honest review***

A group of troubled but charismatic boys in a tough Buffalo, NY neighborhood play basketball at a local park and dream of winning a state high school championship. Driven by raw talent and killer instinct, they dominate the court, but everywhere else, they feel like losers.

Hammond is told through the eyes of James Lombardi, a precocious but mentally ill boy who believes winning a championship will ease his “Evil Thoughts” and save his family, long haunted by generations of substance abuse, uncontrollable rage, and suicide.

A dark but humorous coming-of-age novel, Hammond, offers a poetic and disturbing look inside the complex mind of an adolescent boy as he slowly learns that having the heart of a champion can sometimes be more burden than blessing.

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I really enjoyed this coming-of-age novel. It starts with Jimmy, and his friends Ray, Gerry, and Tony being in the sixth grade. Jimmy had a crush on Julia who ended up breaking his heart. With so much drama and angst packed into this novel, Jimmy never really recovered.

Even though Jimmy was the main character, I felt something more for his older brother Dan. Maybe because he was a mystery. Dan was depressed, and I felt bad for him, wishing someone would help him, at least listen if he wanted to talk. Jimmy had issues too. He was very mean to his little brother and sisters. He was broken inside due to his evil thoughts, and because his dad always took out his anger on him.

My favorite lines: 1) The family machine was in gear, and nothing could slow it down. No time to check on cuts or bruises or shattered egos. 2) It ends in tragedy. It ends in death. Don’t fool yourself for a second, thinking it can happen otherwise. 3) I had no idea I was now both superhero and villain.

I wish there had been more dialogue during some scenes, especially the pretty intense ones. Once I started imagining the story as Jimmy’s journal entries instead of actual scenes happening in the present, it was easier. The story really started to pick up and become more interesting after the time jump when they entered Kirkland High.

I felt so bad for Gerry. I wanted to give all these boys a hug because they all seemed so lost. The author did a great job with characterization and voice. The drama and angst was very well done as well. I prayed for them to win the basketball championship so they could have something good happen in their lives. Did they win? Did they lose? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

I RECOMMEND the book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby

Book Review: The Summer of Crud by Jonathan LaPoma

***I received a free copy from my Goodreads group in exchange for an honest review***

The summer after graduating from college, 22-year-old Danny Wolinski takes a cross-country US road trip with his friend, Ian Perez, hoping to find the inspiration to reach his songwriting potential, start a band, and avoid student teaching in the fall.

Danny is tormented by intense physical and psychological pain and sees music as his only relief, but the more he searches for his inspiration in an America filled with endless parties, heavy drugs, and lost souls, the more he questions whether it exists.

A deeply disturbing psychological coming-of-age novel, THE SUMMER OF CRUD explores the complexities of friendships, masculinity, sex, mental illness, and addiction, and shows how the quest to unlock one’s creativity can both inspire and destroy a person.

THE SUMMER OF CRUD is the first book in a loosely-linked series with UNDERSTANDING THE ALACRAN and DEVELOPING MINDS: AN AMERICAN GHOST STORY as the second and third books, respectively.

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I enjoyed this book. Danny was the main character with Ian being his road trip buddy. Tension started from the very beginning when Ian wouldn’t let Danny put his stuff in the car. The author did a great job with dialogue. Their fights seemed so real that I often wondered ‘how in the world can Danny be friends with Ian? He’s a jerk for no reason.’

My favorite lines: 1) We woke up late the next morning to the smell of fireworks and hot dogs and phony patriotism. 2) “And I’d rather live in a real world full of anger and abuse than a fantasy world of rainbows and unicorns.” 3) With such pain, every moment is about one thing and one thing only: escape. 4) I tried to see myself in the mirror, but my vision was so blurred and thoughts so rapid I couldn’t recognize anything outside of my own misery.

I felt bad for Danny. He was bullied by Ian. He was depressed and probably should have been on meds instead of excessively drinking. Danny definitely needed a hug.

The book kept mentioning a girl Danny had a crush on. I wish we could’ve gotten to know her more. What about her was he attracted to? With the ending, I’m still trying to figure out the point of the road trip…but, I guess it ended like that because the book is part of a series.

I RECOMMEND this book to read.

Keep smiling,

Yawatta Hosby