Brandi Sellers's Reviews > No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row

No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin
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's review
Aug 23, 2012

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bookshelves: real-life, nonfiction, young-adult
Recommended for: 13+
Read on July 21, 2012 — I own a copy

No Choirboy is a compilation of interviews with men who were sentenced to death row as teenagers, their families, and the families of their victims. Roy J. Burgess Jr., 16 years old, kills Kevin Gardner, also 16, for his car. Mark Melvin, 14, helps his older brother kill a man and his wife because the couple was about to testify against them for theft crimes. Nanon Williams, 17, is convicted of killing a man by shooting him in the head as a result of a drug deal gone bad. All of these boys are sentenced to death row, and these are their stories of life on the inside. Their stories are gritty, raw, and often as tragic as the crimes they may or may not have committed. But they are not the only ones with tales to be told. Kuklin also gives us interviews with the family of an executed teen, the surviving siblings of a murdered boy, and the defense lawyers who have made it their duty to defend the teenage murderers who are often misrepresented and demonized before they are ever convicted.

No matter what your feelings are on the death penalty, No Choirboy will encourage you to reevaluate those feelings. While told in the manner of transcribed interviews and shared letters, there is no doubt that this book has an agenda. Yet at the same time it leaves room for a reader to come up with their own interpretation of the crimes, the offenders, and the victims. It also raises questions of unreliable narration and racism. It's a straight-forward enough story, with accessible language despite its sometimes difficult content, and I would recommend it for ages 13 and up.

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