by Betsy Franco (editor) Candlewick Press, 2001 Review by Liz Bass on Apr 6th 2002
"What could have been running through their minds?,"
we ask about those September 11 hijackers. "Who were they,
anyway?," we wonder. Well, one way to describe them is this:
they were young men.
It would be easy to say that the young male writers featured in
You Hear Me? are not hijackers, nor could they ever be.
But in a world turned on its ear by the rash actions of youthful
males, we are beyond saying "never" when it comes to
predicting what any of them will or will not do. If there is one
thing we know now that we didn't realize before that fateful date,
it is that we don't know enough about how young men think, especially
those who live on the margins of society. In that sense, You
Hear Me? is a book we need to read. Equally as important as
the individual pieces in it is who wrote those pieces, and a reader
inevitably tunes in as much to the tone of the young voices as
to what they are actually saying. The in-your-face title even
demands that you do that.
The You Hear Me? writers are not skilled enough in the
use of language to create multi-dimensional works that resonate
in a reader's mind after the book is put down. One of them, however,
comes close. He is fifteen-year-old Tito D.Tate, who writes:
how women say
"Tito. . ."
"Tito. . ."
over and over
as if they don't want
to let go.
I admire the author for letting us ride into his subconscious,
and give him his due as he modestly struggles with power. Admirable,
too, is how he is able to transform his aural intelligence into
something a reader can hear as well.
Another poem is called "He Shaved His Head" and it is
written by thirteen-year-old Rene Ruiz. It reminds me of the hijackers.
He shaved his head to release his imagination
He did it to get a tattoo on his shining head.
He did it to lose his normality.
He did it to become a freak.
He did it because he was angry.
He did it to make people angry.
He did it for himself.
The seventy-three pieces in You Hear Me? stay within the
range of conventional English expression, with a few exceptions.
One, called "I Hate School," uses the "f"
word nine times over the course of nine paragraphs, as proof,
most likely, that the writer is quite angry. You come away from
the rant feeling slightly relieved that the author has at least
spewed his poisonous thoughts on paper and not acted them out
You Hear Me? begs for an answer, so I will give one, and
it is this: Yes, I hear you but tell me what you want me to do