Forged by Fire
by Sharon M. Draper
School Library Journal
Gr 7-10--Gerald, a battered and neglected African-American child, is severely burned in a fire at the age of three, having been left home alone by his single mother, Monique. Upon leaving the hospital he goes to live with his warm and caring Aunt Queen. When he is nine, his mother reenters his life for the first time since the accident. Monique introduces him to Angel, his four-year-old half-sister, and Jordan Sparks, Angel's surly father. When Aunt Queen dies suddenly of a heart attack, Gerald is returned to his mother and takes on the role of loving protector of his little sister. He soon learns that Sparks, who mentally and physically abuses all of the family, is sexually abusing Angel. Gerald and Angel's testimony helps send Sparks to prison, but upon his release six years later, he returns to the family, with the blessing of Monique, whose own life is checkered with bouts of substance abuse. A terse confrontation erupts into a fiery climax when Sparks again attempts to molest Angel. The riveting first chapter was originally published as a short story in Ebony magazine under the title "One Small Touch." While the rest of the book does not sustain the mood and pace of the initial chapter, Forged by Fire is a grim look at an inner-city home where abuse and addiction are a way of life and the children are the victims. There's no all's-well ending, but readers will have hope for Gerald and Angel, who have survived a number of gut-wrenching ordeals by relying on their constant love and caring for one another.
Tom S. Hurlburt, La Crosse Public Library, WI
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