The Death of Jayson Porter by Jaime Adoff

I saw this book sitting on the new book shelf at Barnes and Noble.  The title just jumps out at you – The Death of Jayson Porter. The book actually opens up with what looks to be the suicide of the main character, Jayson Porter.  Really this is not a spoiler; it is right there on the first page.  But what happened before that moment?  What happened to allow this act to even happen?

First, let’s take a look at where he lives.  The projects isn’t exactly Park Ave. The harsh reality of low income housing leaves residents stuck in a place of danger and despair.  It’s not unusual to see gang violence, women hooking, drugs being sold right out in the open, children born out of wedlock, rampant crime. Quite a dismal picture if you ask me.  This is Sunny Gardens, the real third world as Jayson calls it. Bandon, Florida, a place that is constantly wished off a map by a hurricane.

Above is Jayson Porter’s life.  He is 16 and is just trying to survive. Not only that, his white mother drinks and does drugs way too much and beats him down on a regular basis. This has been going on since he was small.  Never a sorry afterwards or asking if he was alright.  His mom will just shut her door and go to bed leaving Jayson to cry himself to sleep.  It becomes routine.  Just another part of life. She goes through boyfriends like a revolving door so there is no stable older male influence in his life.  His black father is not much help – he can’t even help himself – crack controls his life.  Can you imagine how the color of his skin is looked upon by the rest of the “bruthas” in the hood? He might as well have a bullseye printed on his back.  Everyday he goes to Graham, a fancy white school on a scholarship with the hope that things will get better. But the kids know where he is from and treat him accordingly. They aren’t nasty or anything.  They just act like they are far above him.  He has worked on his outside game for a long time – the one that he shows to most people on how things will work out. It’s another world out there but then reality slams him back down when he heads home.   What is a kid supposed to do? Ending it all is option.  In fact it is very tempting for him. Unfortunately, there are a lot of Jayson’s in the world.

The writing was good – very gritty, very street using language that urban teens will definitely get. Definitely meant for the older teen set as the grim picture painted maybe disturbing to younger readers. I knew the name Jaime Adoff but truth be known I am more familiar with his parent’s (Virginia Hamilton/Arnold Adoff) works of literature than his. Now that I have found this author, I hope he produces more books like this one.