Myers, Walter Dean. Dope Sick. New York: Amistad, 2009.
Genre: Young adult fiction, fantasy.
Audience: 14 and up
Summary: Dope Sick tells the story of a teenage boy named Lil J. His life is troublesome and he steals pills from his mom to forget about all the hardships he endures day in and day out. He and his friend Rico agree to do a drug deal that will make them quick money, but the drug deal goes wrong when they discover the buyer is a cop. A gunfight ensues and the cop is badly wounded and Lil J gets shot in the arm. Rico is caught by the police but Lil J is on the run and hides in an abandoned house inhabited by a man named Kelly. Kelly uses a magic television set that shows how Lil J’s future will play out if he performs certain acts in the near future.
Themes: A major theme in this book is identity. Lil J struggles to find a purpose in life and must make decisions that will allow him to live a decent life. Kelly helps him see this with the television, but he also asks him questions that help him think about his life and why he does certain things.
Another theme in this book is culture. Lil J is a product of his environment because he has no other choice but to stay in the city. Kelly and Lil J spend a lot of time discussing Lil J’s life. They go over all the negative effects that Lil J’s society has done to him. Lil J must learn how to live in his culture without succumbing to the things that can have a negative impact on his future.
Connections: This book could be taught with the other book by Walter Dean Myers that we read in class. Both Dope Sick and Monster deal with issues that African American teenagers deal with in life. They are both coming of age stories that help readers see that other people are dealing with similar situations. This book could be taught as a part of a coming of age unit or an African American authors unit because Walter Dean Myers is such a prominent figure in young adult literature.
Reactions: I enjoyed reading this book. It was written in a language that is typically spoken in inner city neighborhoods. I was brought back to my younger days when I used to use a lot of slang and how it might have been hard to understand me in my youth. I think that this would be a good book to teach in class because students could relate to the language.
Reception: One review I read of this book talks about the struggles of inner city life. Wrighty says that Lil J must face his reality and figure out the possibilites of his future life. Another review by Common Sense Media talks about the things parents should know about the book to see if it is safe for kids. He lets them know that there is drug abuse and violence in the story, but it is not graphic and will not be too harsh for the readers to handle.