Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Hi Everyone! It’s Becky. I have been feverishly trying to get through all the books that are getting award buzz before the Youth Media Awards at the end of the month. I just finished Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam and this book definitely has award potential.

Title: Punching the Air
Author: Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Note: I listened to the audiobook.

Summary: Amal Shahid dreamed of being an artist. However, after Amal is arrested and convicted of an assault he didn’t commit, his life is forever changed. Now, Amal is incarcerated for a crime he didn’t commit, and he must find a way to survive and not lose himself while in prison.

Review: Every year there are a few books that are very important, and Punching the Air is one of those books. Zoboi and Salaam wrote a lyrical novel-in-verse that starts conversations and makes people question what is happening in society. Amal could be any young African American man who happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn’t his actions that created his destiny but circumstances created by others. The authors highlight how other people’s perceptions shaped what happened to Amal. The novel, told in verse, powerfully using minimal words to describe Amal’s experience in prison. Zoboi and Salaam show how the American juvenile detention centers treat their inmates as lesser than human instead of people who should be rehabilitated. The novel speaks of more than just Amal’s experience but instead shines a the issues which impact far too many Americans. The book is powerful, relevant, and a story that will stay with you long after you finish it. 

Final Rating: 4 out of 5

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