________________ CM . . . . Volume XX Number 5. . . .October 4, 2013



Allison Van Diepen.
Toronto, ON: Simon Pulse, 2013.
280 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $11.99 (pbk.), $19.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-4424-6312-7 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-4424-6311-0 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Drug traffic-Fiction.
Criminal investigation-Fiction.
African Americans-Fiction.

Grades 8-10 / Ages 13-15.

Review by Ann Ketcheson.

**** /4



Pulling my hood forward, I walked out of the alley and crossed the street, avoiding the security cameras around the all-night deli. Everybody knew those cameras didn't miss a thing. If Diamond Tony suspected a snitch, he'll get the tapes. He could have anything he wanted in this neighbourhood.

I wasn't going to get sloppy. A sloppy informant is a dead informant.

Home was four blocks away. It was late and freezing cold, so everybody was staying inside. Even the drug fiends had found warm places to huddle.

When I got to my building, I saw two homeless guys slumped in between the front doors. They were probably too high to notice me, but I couldn't risk it.

I circled around back and scaled the fire escape. It was loose in several places and clanked against the building as I went up three floors. Climbing into my bedroom, I kicked off my shoes, threw my jacket over a chair, and stretched out on the bed. I rubbed my hands together to warm them up. My heart was beating fast, the way it always did when I was creeping. Creeping and peeping, the kind of thing that could get me killed any day of the week.

I was four months out of juvie and a lot deeper into the game than before I went in. But I had to work for Diamond Tony if I was going to bring him down. I had a mission - and nothing was going to get in my way.


Darren finds himself caught between two worlds as the novel opens. He is just out of a juvenile detention centre after taking the fall for Diamond Tony, head of the drug racket in the city. Darren is anxious to get even, yet knows he needs support if he is to truly take down the drug kingpin. So, he agrees to be an informant for the police. Darren spends his days taking tenth and eleventh grade high school classes and his nights inside Diamond Tony's drug organization. He understands the dangers and must decide if his desire for revenge is as strong as his desire to protect himself and those whom he loves.

     Allison van Diepen has created a multi-faceted protagonist with whom young adult readers will be able to relate. Darren is tough, smart and determined - qualities which serve him well in his role as informant. He also has a tender and caring personality, shown in his dealings with his much younger brother as well as his girlfriend, Jessica. Darren is someone who wants to stand up for the underdog and has absolutely no tolerance for injustice. His original involvement with the drug scene shows him as a victim of circumstance, but he is determined to rise above his juvenile record, his neighbourhood and his somewhat doubtful family past. Darren wants better for himself and his family and looks forward to a time when he can offer the same to Jessica.

     Van Diepen's novel is an edge-of-your-seat nail-biter which reads quickly and easily. There is tension throughout the novel as readers cheer for Darren and hope he can undermine the drug lord and those in his close-knit gang. There are many points of heart-stopping excitement. When Darren's original police contact is killed, will others on the force believe he didn't set him up? A deadly turf war develops between Diamond Tony and a rival gang, the Bloods. Can Darren survive the crossfire which surrounds him? Like a movie or a television show, the scenes are quick, sometimes graphic, and work together to build to a conclusion worthy of a blockbuster at the cinema.

     The novel gives readers a sense of life in a large city, in this case the tough Jane and Finch area of Toronto. Drugs and drug dealers are everywhere, and there are many volatile situations. However, readers also see Darren at school, among friends and teachers, working his way toward Ryerson University and a career in music. Darren's romance with Jessica allows readers to see his softer, more sentimental side and indicates the depth of their love, particularly when Jessica , an innocent bystander during a drive-by shooting, incurs a gunshot wound and ends up in hospital.

     Van Diepen's style is very readable, with appropriate vocabulary which makes her characters realistic, modern and believable. In general, sentences are short, adding to the speed, tension and movement of the plot as well as keeping it easy to read for her teen audience. Chapters are also short, again reminiscent of quick scenes in a movie. The book will have real appeal for both male and female readers as well as anyone who enjoys the genres of mystery and suspense.

     In her dedication, van Diepen mentions educators who champion her books and readers who wanted more novels from her. No doubt that number will increase substantially after reading Takedown, and hopefully this author will find the energy and inspiration to produce another young adult novel and keep both groups happy.

Highly Recommended.

Ann Ketcheson, a retired teacher-librarian and high school teacher of English and French, lives in Ottawa, ON.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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