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Punching the Air

4.51  ·  Rating details ·  10,115 ratings  ·  2,078 reviews
From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Walter Dean Myers, and Elizabeth Acevedo.

The story that I thought

was my life

didn’t start on the day

I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published September 1st 2020 by Balzer + Bray
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Denise Gill Neither. The system obviously looks as bad as it should, but as the novel focuses on one character's experience (in juvenile detention), it allows the…moreNeither. The system obviously looks as bad as it should, but as the novel focuses on one character's experience (in juvenile detention), it allows the reader to investigate and conclude on their own. (which hopefully is abolition for most folks.)(less)

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Average rating 4.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  10,115 ratings  ·  2,078 reviews

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Emily May
Jun 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Locking you up isn’t enough
for them        They will try
to crush your spirit until
you’re nothing but—


we both say together

And what does dust do, Amal?
What did Maya Angelou say about dust?

Umi asks

It rises, I whisper

This verse novel is incredible. And devastating.

I really wish publication could be moved up for this book because, while I'm certain it's story will be no less relevant in September, it very much complements the discussions happening right now. It is a book about race and the way th
“I’m sure you all know
the rule of law—
Innocent until proven guilty

But with us, it’s
guilty until proven innocent”

We have here a story of a 16-year old child who’s Black and Muslim.
We have here a child whose life has been guided by the colour of his skin.
We have here a child who was accused, tried and convicted as if he was an adult. Yet his white counterpart was allowed to retain his status as a child.
We have here a child that’s bearing the burden that comes with having a skin colour he had n
C.G. Drews
Sometimes you just read a novel that is so beautiful and aching and phenomenal, that you must just sit in silence and absorb it. This is that kind of novel. It's told in verse, about a Black teen artist named Amal Shahid, who is facing court and jail time for throwing a punch. A white boy lies unconscious in hospital and a white court is building a case of what they think happened. It's so much about racial profiling, about misunderstanding, about blatant and cold racism. Amal is a boy of emotio ...more
Sep 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: ya, e-books, 2020-reads
This Review ✍️ Blog 📖 Twitter 🐦 Instagram 📷

“Don’t ever stop dreaming big
But for now, put that dream on paper
It’s easier to carry around”

Punching the Air is a novel written in verse about 16 year old Amal, who is convicted of a crime he did not commit because he is black. I think we all know the injustice and discrimination against the black community. Amal is also Muslim and although the story did not indulge on that aspect, it is also widely known how Islamophobia affects all Mus
Jul 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
ARC received in exchange for an honest review.

I don't think I can express how important, poignant and devastating this novel was to read. Written in collaboration with Yusef Salaam, one of the exonerated five, this clearly draws heavily in Salaam's own experiences to help shape the main character of Amal. Amal is simply a boy, in the wrong place, who makes one mistake that leads to devastating consequences.

Being black, Amal speaks candidly of his experiences in jail, of never getting to simply
Reading_ Tam_ Ishly
Oct 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
I appreciate the theme that this book-in-verse narrated.

A young black boy struggling in jail for being wrongly convicted of a crime.

This book addresses racism, coming of age, police brutality, discrimination against the black community, family dynamics, the so called law that handles such cases, the injustices and the consequences that follow.

I love the family dynamic representation the most. Umi is one such great mother. A strong woman. It's her character (though the book isn't told from her
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, race
"We were
a mob
a gang
a pack of wolves

They were 
having fun
full of potential

This book is amazing! Wow! It doesn't just "punch the air", it punches the air right out of you. 

It is the story of a Amal, a Black teen who is wrongfully incarcerated. It is told in verse form and is powerful. Like the heroine in The Poet X, Amal uses art to express his feelings, his dreams and his despair.

When he and his friends get into a fight with a group
Jessica | JustReadingJess
Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam is a fantastic book about race. This is one of those books I wish everyone would read. I rate this along with The Hate You Give.

I absolutely loved Punching the Air. I felt so much during this book. I felt all the injustice for Amal. The writing style made me become instantly attached to Amal. Amal go through all the injustices his faced in juvie and leading up to then as well as childhood made me so sad.

I highly recommend Punching the Air for every
J. Greene
Aug 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-favorites
On page 77, there's a line that says, "Bail money is invisible handcuffs," and if that's true, Black anger is mine. It's a quiet/loud part of me I lug around weighed down by its seemingly present less presence. Wondering when my Blackness will get me into trouble, I didn't create.

When I finished this book, I just sat still, staring at the cursor contemplating how to summarize what the book is about and how it made me feel. Whatever I say here will be inadequate, but here's me trying.

I can honest
Lauren Lanz
3.5 stars! ⭐️

Two years ago, I’d never read a full-length novel told completely in poetry or verse. The genre never really appealed to me, and so I stuck to what I knew I enjoyed. One day, I decided to try The Poet X, and it changed everything for me. It is books like that, (and now Punching the Air) which make me realise just how wrong I was to avoid reading long works of poetry.

~★~ What is this book about? ~★~

Based on the true story of Yusef Salaam, a fifteen year old boy wrongly convicted
Oct 06, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I'm sure you all know
the rule of law -
Innocent until proven guilty

But with us, it's
guilty until proven innocent

Punching the Air is a YA novel written in verse about a Black boy convicted for a crime he did not commit. The book starts just before the jury sentences Amal, who is 16 at the time, to several years of prison for allegedly attacking a (white) boy and beating him into a coma. The book discusses the many systems put in place by white Americans that disadvantage and discriminate against B
Kelsey (munnyreads)
Feb 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Hands down, a must-read.

I cried several times reading this book. And then cried some more after I was done.
This is a beautiful and devastating story that will stay with me for a long time.
Umairah | Sereadipity
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars

Punching the Air was a powerful novel in verse about a Black Muslim boy who was convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. Words can hardly covey the profundity of this book- my advice to anyone reading this review is to read Punching the Air as soon as possible and experience it for yourself.

Content Warnings: wrongful conviction and imprisonment, racism, abuse, violence

Plot: 4.5/5
Characters: 5/5
Writing: 5/5

The writing was raw and hard-hitting. There were so many times when I gasped at the
Jenny Lawson
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Painful and beautiful verse novel. I recommend.
Nov 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
The collaboration between the noted Young Adult writer and the Exonerated Five member has resulted in a powerful novel in verse about a sixteen-year-old black teenager wrongly convicted of a crime. Amal was on track to go to college to pursue art and writing when he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. As Amal’s story unfolds, Zoboi and Salaam delve into the issue of the disenfranchisement of young black men. Recommend.
But there’s no future in these
four walls four walls
boxing me in boxing me in
so I punch the air

The authors of Punching the Air Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam says this book is “the power of art, faith and transcendence un the most debilitating circumstances. It is out hope that all readers will experience the journey of a boy who finds himself in a heated moment where one wrong move threatens his future and how he uses art to express his truth, THE TRUTH.”

What a beautiful, heart-wrenching,
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I was only vaguely aware of the CP5 case until I watched When They See Us and when I saw that Yusef Salaam was a co-author, I was quite intrigued.

Amal is an artist, a poet, a young man, and his journey is heartbreaking and hopeful. Being in his head was captivating.

The story moves fluidly, the prose is amazing, and the structure on the page adds even more. This review is short because I don’t know how to articulate just how phenomenal and timely this book is.

**Huge thanks to Balzer + Bray for
Bookphenomena (Micky)
This book made my heart hurt. A short story, told in verse, drawing on Yusef Salaam’s experiences and channeled into Amal, a young man wrongly convicted of a crime. Injustice and justice was on the menu here and the use of verse poignantly reverberated the message.

I am ink
He is paper…
I am criminal
He is victim
I am alive
He is almost dead
I am black
He is white

The narrative in this novel had a moment-to-moment feeling that was pretty tension ridden and I read much of it with that sense of doom and
CW (The Quiet Pond) ✨
No words - other than the fact that this is gut-wrenching, magnificent, and just so... tangible in its raw emotion. This is a must-read.
Powerful yet devastating. Punching The Air is about the institutional racism and systematic oppression that kids of colors experience in school, trials, and even once they reach jail or prison. This book is so important, especially during these times as it's so relevant. It's written in verse so it's a quick read however, not an easy one in the least. Even when the world tries to throw you in a boxed description, there is a chance to break out and find purpose, hope, and art. It’s amazing how po ...more
punching the air is the sobering story of a young black boy's wrongful incarceration. it's beautifully written; raw and heartbreaking.

i really appreciate when such evocative fiction can be used to teach young readers about important subjects (racism and our country's need for prison reform, in this case).

our main character, amal, is just a child at 16. it's devastating to watch the system fail him over and over again. though the school-to-prison pipeline is systemic, there's so much subtle racis
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-authors
A powerful and moving novel told in verse, Punching the Air follows a Black teen boy who is wrongfully convicted of a violent crime and is sent to a juvenile facility. It offers a look at the injustices often present in the American criminal justice system, the ways that young people can be terrorized within juvenile detention centers, and the structural racism that forces them into silence and defensive behavior.

This is a novel filled with pain, but also with hope as the main character express
Claude's Bookzone
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Crikey, that was an incredibly well written and important verse novel.

The way the imagery of the stones, bricks, dust and butterflies is so cleverly woven into the story to symbolise Amal's shifting emotional state was just amazing and so poignant.

I thoroughly recommend reading the text copy of the book as the word placement on the page is part of the story telling. A must read for the significance and importance of the topic and also to enjoy the experience of reading an incredibly well craft
Jessica DiTommaso
Feb 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars - This book made me remember how much I love those written in the poetic prose, so please leave recommendations below if you know any! Now onto the review... This novel was so beautifully written and evidently relevant given the issues we are facing today. So close to five stars for me, but I was definitely missing a bit of a resolution, or answer, but maybe it's better that way given how close to home the ending becomes to mirror for what we see in cases like Amal's today. My favorite ...more
I can remember vividly the days surrounding the Central Park jogger case. I remember the collective fear that held New York City in a vice. The way the press preyed on our emotions with descriptions of roving gangs of teens "wilding out". Five teens -- black and brown -- were accused of this depraved act. They were villainized. Trump took out a full page ad in the New York Times demanding the death penalty in their case. In the days the followed one person stood out for me. Yusef Salaam's mother ...more
lexi ✨
Feb 04, 2021 rated it really liked it
closer to 4.5

such a strong read.

“punching the air is about the power of art, faith & transcendence in the most debilitating circumstances”

“yusef & i wanted people to know that when you find yourself in dark places, there’s always a light somewhere in that darkness, & even if that light is inside of you, you can illuminate your own darkness by shedding that light on the world”

above are 2 quotes from the author’s note that i personally thought were extremely powerful because i saw their p
Mar 30, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 ⭐️

“When I say that maybe I was punching all the walls they put around me, around us, I was punching the air, the clouds, the sun..”

Punching the Air is inspired by the story of Salaam’s wrongful conviction as a boy, who after nearly 7 years in prison, DNA evidence cleared his name.

As Punching the Air details, so often in the justice system, we see how a person of color is not presumed innocent until proven guilty, but presumed guilty until proven innocent. I think that the author was able

I absolutely love books in verse and this was no exception. This was such an amazing book that dealt with what it's like to be wrongly incarcerated. My only gripe was that the ending was a tad open. I know what I want to happen, but it doesn't mean that is what happened in this fictional world. But I'm gonna go with it because it was a happy ending.

I read this around the time I read Dear Justyce and while both are about similar, they focus on different aspects. Quan spends more time learni
Tori (InToriLex)
I'm kicking myself that I dragged my feet to read this wonderful exploration of race, mass incarceration, and hope. Amal gives you a glimpse into experiencing the rage inducing school to prison pipeline, where identity and art is usually lost to the pain.

Amal's story is unfortunately not a rare occurrence for so many in the black community. The radiation of tragedy that occurs when a young man is ripped from his family is well described. I loved the parallels that it drew between the middle pas
Sep 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020-s-books
all because we were in the wrong place
we were in the wrong skins
we were in the wrong time
we were in the wrong bodies
we were in the wrong country
we were in the wrong
were in the wrong
in the wrong
the wrong

and here i'm crying my eyes out and i'm so happy that i'm crying but i'm also shattered because it's not just a book to me, it's siblings stories and i'm so tired of seeing all my siblings around the world suffering the injustices of society, of being...born. what is the crime that we,
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Ibi Zoboi's debut novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist. She is also the New York Times Bestselling author of Pride, My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, and Punching the Air with co-author and Exonerated Five member, Yusef Salaam. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Born in Haiti and raised in New York City, she now lives in ...more

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As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of...
81 likes · 21 comments
“When you find yourself in dark places, there's always a light somewhere in that darkness, and even if that light is inside of you, you can illuminate your own darkness by shedding that light on the world.” 16 likes
“Don't ever stop dreaming big
But for now, put that dream on paper
It's easier to carry around”
More quotes…