________________ CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 21. . . .February 4, 2011.


Final Takedown. (SideStreets).

Brent R. Sherrard.
Toronto, ON: Lorimer, 2010.
124 pp., pbk., hc. & ebook, $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.), $8.95 (ebook).
ISBN 978-1-55277-523-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55277-525-7 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55277-524-0 (ebook).

Grades 7-9 / Ages 12-14.

Review by Mark Mueller.




I turn to face the back of the couch. Since I can’t sleep, I get to thinking. I’m seventeen years old, and probably going to some kind of juvenile hall in a few weeks. I smoke weed pretty well full time, and am barely sliding by in school. My mom is home drunk, and I’m sleeping on my best friend’s couch. My father is out there somewhere, maybe in prison for all I know, and hasn’t contacted me once since he abandoned us. I’d just slashed the tires on my teacher’s car because I guessed he might be doing me a wrong turn, and soon I was going to rip off what might be a biker organization.

I fall asleep wondering if maybe it’s time to change a few things in my life.

Final Takedown is a gritty and raw coming-of-age novel that tackles a number of issues that often face marginalized youth: addiction, poverty, youth violence and crime. It is Brent R. Sherrard’s second installment in the “SideStreets” series, an edgy series that challenges teens to take a long and hard look at such themes as bullying, suicide, eating disorders and other thorny issues.

     The story is about Elias Heath Minto, a half-Maliseet teen who is caught in a web of drug-abuse and youth violence. When Elias and his friend, Jordan, find themselves at a court-hearing for an aggravated assault charge, the judge orders the two of them to shape-up or find themselves in juvenile hall before their court date. The thought of being kicked out of school and facing the prospect of spending time in jail causes Elias to re-examine his life. Elias tries to make good use of his free time by attaining a full-time job at a construction company and doing what he can to help out around the house. The unrepentant Jordan begins to make plans to rob a gopher for a local gambling operation, and he wants Elias to play a part in the “Final Takedown.” Elias, who does not want to let his friend Jordan down, reluctantly agrees to take part in the operation. He begins to experience a drastic change in heart when he starts dating Amber and realizes that it is difficult to maintain healthy relationships while living his current lifestyle. When Elias learns about the truth of his father’s death and begins to experience the very real fear of having to look over his shoulder for police and thugs after a fight one night, he finally realizes he needs to change his ways. Change, however, does not come easy. Amber ends the relationship after confrontation with an old-group of Elias’ friends one night, and Jordan manages to talk him into pulling off the “Final Takedown.” The operation does not go according as planned, and Elias finds himself in the hospital with a bullet-wound to the stomach. In the final chapter of the book, Elias is in the hospital and faced with a decision – continue a life of crime, or take responsibility for his actions.

     Final Takedown is an ambitious coming-of-age story that is deals with youth crime and drug addiction in a realistic manner. The lesson of the story, that being a man consists of taking responsibility for one’s actions and being one’s own person, is a worthwhile one, particularly for teenage boys. The tone of the book, however, might be a little too didactic for more sophisticated readers and teens in older grades (15 and up). Final Takedown is still, however, a good book for younger teens (12-14) that are just beginning to experience the joys of reading.


Mark Mueller is the Education Librarian at Tyndale University College in Toronto, ON.

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

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