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

No Choirboy by Susan Kuklin
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Aug 10, 2009

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This book over all is well-written and sheds light on a topic not often discussed. The first two chapters were amazing and I found myself really interested in the topic and wanting to know more. Somewhere around chapter three though it started to run out of steam. Excellent storytellings fell to the wayside of pushing an agenda. The author is clearly against the death penalty and the book turns from telling the story of life on death row to conversations with a family who had a brother who was killed and then ends with a chapter on an attorney who represents those on death row. All of the information presented was interesting but the shift was awkward and did not flow. I would have liked to have had all the information presented included, but the transitions could have been smoother and the message would have been more powerful if the author had utilized more than one professor as an expert.
While the expert she consulted with is obviously well-versed and well respected on this subject matter at NYU there was a lack of representation from a law professor on the other side of the coin. Since she repeatedly pointed out that Alabama and Texas are the states with the highest number of death row inmates, why not have an expert in law enforcement or/and a law professor from one of those states interviewed?
Lastly, the author does touch on the fact that a murder committed in Houston will likely result, if any evidence surfaces to prove capital murder, in someone being sentenced to the death penalty. But very subtly she throws in a paragraph for one of the teens that race may have played a part in his sentence. While that cannot be confirmed or denied, she neglects to mention what often plays an even bigger factor in capital murder cases….money. A capital murder trial is expensive, very expensive, and many smaller counties will not have the funds to go to trial. It is very likely that offenders that commit crimes in less wealthy counties also are less likely to receive the death penalty, if they take a deal from the prosecution. In cities with more revenue, such as Houston, those caught with blood on their hands are more likely to receive the death penalty regardless of race. The good from this book is it raises awareness on a topic not often discussed; But because it is bringing such a heavy handed topic to light, and aimed at teenagers, I would have liked for the book to examine even more issues in a more well rounded and all-encompassing way. This book is listed on the Tayshas list, a list selected by Texas librarians for high school students. I love that they put a non-fiction book that touches on a powerful subject on the list. I do wish though, that if they are going to put a strong agenda pushing book on one subject that they also had a book that reflects the other side of the issues argument. Perhaps, a book that represents this complicated issue in a fair and balanced manner geared to teenagers is still not yet written.
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