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Punching the Air

4.59  ·  Rating details ·  2,371 ratings  ·  688 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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Average rating 4.59  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,371 ratings  ·  688 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
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: e-books, 2020-reads, ya
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
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: race, poetry
"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
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
Jenny Lawson
Sep 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Painful and beautiful verse novel. I recommend.
Jessica Kafka | 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
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
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,
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
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 rascism, 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
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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
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
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
i might be in a slump and my feelings may be out, but i don't have it in me to give this book anything less than a 5 even though my feelings are mostly numb.

it was freaking brilliant and i'll definitely be rereading again soon.
Jul 06, 2020 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition

I am SO glad this book is coming out into the world. I am so glad it includes Yusef Salaam.

When They See Us is one of the most powerful visual arts out there and I'm just happy that his story will be published and read.
Jenny Baker
Sep 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
A powerful story that's full of emotions...heartbreaking...highly recommended on audiobook.
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,
Powerful, lyrical, and emotional. This book is a perfect distillation of impotent rage, creative energy, and hesitant, desperate hope. I only wish this was out NOW because it resonates so true with current events. Librarians - this is a MUST BUY.
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020
An incredibly powerful and poignant novel in verse about being wrongly incarcerated as a young adult, based loosely on the times of Yusef Salaam of the Central Park five who contributed to the story.

I flew threw this in one sitting. For fans of Jason Reynolds and Elizabeth Acevedo, this is tight up your street!!

After being wrongly convicted of a crime he didn’t commit, Amal is sent to a juvenile detention facility. We follow him as we flash between past and present and what lead up to this poin
Kate (GirlReading)
Lyrical and gut wrenching, the powerful truth between the pages of this book can't be ignored.
Kira Thebookbella
This is a YA story about Amal Shahid, who is a black Muslim accused of beating his white classmate into a coma. He stands trial and is convicted by everyone, and sentenced to juvie.

Amal is an artist, he has aspirations to go to an art college and make a living out of making art. But when he is convicted, he feels all of that has slipped through his fingers.

This book is extremely powerful and intense and I really loved it. It had a steady rhythm in both the points of systematic racism that this
Sep 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
That’s the point
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

Punching the Air, written in verse, is Amal’s story of trying to cling to hope after being wrongfully incarcerated. The story heavily encompasses the topic of race and injustice from a poetic first person perspective. It’s an incredibly powerful narrative full of ra
Wow! Punching the Air is an incredibly important and impactful YA novel. It reads like poetry and even includes written poetry from Yusef Salaam (of the wrongly incarcerated Central Park Five). The narrator does a beautiful job of bringing the story to life and reading each passage with the most jaw-dropping pacing. I cannot recommend this novel enough. It is timely with what's going on in the country and it is important for young readers to learn from this novel. I truly cannot recommend Punchi ...more
Tanya Tate
Aug 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing

Book Stats 
Stars: Five Stars
Start Date: 8/21/20 
Ending Date:  8/24/20
Genre:  YA, Verse, Own Voice, Race Issues
Form: Audiobook Arc
Page Count: 400
Publishing Date: September 1st 2020
Point of View: 1st Person Verse
Setting: New York City

Received an Audiobook arc from publisher via Netgalley  in exchange for an honest review. You can read it on my blog!

Punching the air is about a 16 year old name Amal Shhaid who was convicted of a crime that he did not commit. Who was sent to a Juvenile Detentio
Sep 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a book everyone should read. It's heartbreakingly beautiful and will tear your heart to shreads. The world is a cruel place, but even more cruel to people others think are less because of their skin or facial features.
If you haven't, read this.
Oct 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Timely, powerful, and impactful. A novel everyone should read!
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Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller, and Punching the Air with co-author and Exonerated Five member, Yus ...more

Articles featuring this book

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
“Don't ever stop dreaming big
But for now, put that dream on paper
It's easier to carry around”
“Umi told me to wear a gray suit because optics

But that gray didn’t make me any less black”
More quotes…