Reviews for Forged by Fire


Booklist Monthly Selections - #2 February 1997
Gr. 7^-10. Gerald Nickelby, a minor character in Tears of a Tiger (1994), emerges full-fledged and courageous in this companion story. His stable life with a firm but loving aunt (who is caring for him while his mother serves a prison sentence for child neglect) is shattered when his mother returns to claim him on his ninth birthday. With her is a young daughter, Angel, to whom Gerald is drawn, and her husband, Jordan, whom Gerald instinctively dislikes. When Gerald learns that Jordan is sexually abusing Angel, he risks physical assault and public embarrassment to rescue her. Although written in a more conventional form than the earlier novel, the dialogue is still convincing, and the affection between Angel and Gerald rings true. With so much tragedy here (the car crash and death of Gerald's friend Rob in Tears are again recounted, though Draper, thankfully, stops before Andy Jackson's suicide), there is some danger of overloading the reader. Nevertheless, Draper faces some big issues (abuse, death, drugs) and provides concrete options and a positive African American role model in Gerald. ((Reviewed February 15, 1997)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1997
The drunk driving accident that killed a teenage basketball player in [cf2]Tears of a Tiger[cf1] is replayed in this companion novel that focuses on another member of the basketball team. Gerald must protect his half-sister Angel from his violent and sexually abusive stepfather in a downbeat story that contains occasional moments of power but too often sacrifices realism and subtlety for trite dialogue and overblown emotion. Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Kirkus Reviews 1996 December
~ An African-American boy grows into a decent man, a loving brother, and a steadfast son despite the cruelties of his childhood in this latest novel by Draper (Tears of a Tiger, 1994, not reviewed, etc.). Although three-year-old Gerald is burned in the fire caused by his drug-addicted mother Monique's recklessness, his life takes a turn for the better: The court sends him to live with his aunt, Queen. Wheelchair-bound and poor, Queen has a loving heart and boundless spirit that nourish and cultivate Gerald for six years, until his mother walks back into his life. When Queen abruptly dies, Gerald moves into Monique's home, where he becomes devoted to his younger half-sister, Angel, and suffers at the hands of his mother's new husband. Jordan is a bully, drunk, and child molester; while Angel and Gerald get him convicted (the police show up as Jordan is about to abuse Angel), he eventually returns to haunt the family after serving his jail term. While Draper's narrative is riveting, it is also rife with simplistic characterizations: Aunt Queen is all-good, Monique is all-stupid, and Jordan is all-evil. In addition, there are enough logical twists in the plot without the seemingly gratuitous death of Gerald's friend, Rob. A touching story, burdened by contrivances. (Fiction. 12-14) Copyright 1999 Kirkus Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1997 March
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. Copyright 1998 School Library Journal Reviews

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VOYA Reviews 1997 #3
What started out as an award-winning short story in Ebony magazine was expanded into this sad but inspirational story about a young man trying to escape the horrors of a dysfunctional family. As a toddler, Gerald was left alone at home one day whilehis mother went out to buy street drugs, only one of several irresponsible acts committed by her in the story. Rescued by a neighbor after fire breaks out in the apartment, Gerald is sent to live with strong-willed but loving Aunt Queen. There hethrives until on his ninth birthday his mother returns from jail with a new husband, Jordan Sparks, in tow. Gerald also discovers he has a kid sister, Angel, who was born in jail and apparently has already suffered a series of abuses in her sixyears. Angel immediately clutches onto Gerald for love and protection, and he responds. Life is hard in a new household run by an angry, abusive, demanding stepfather and a compliant mother, but Gerald manages to keep Angel away from the stepdad most of the time and finds time to develop his skills in high school as a basketballplayer. Angel blossoms into a passionate dancer, but the shadow of their sullen stepfather and deteriorating mother continues to cause difficulties. Other tragedies befall the family and one of Gerald's friends before another fire culminates a finalconfrontation between Gerald and his stepfather.This is a companion to the author's Tears of a Tiger (Atheneum, 1994/VOYA February 1995), a story about one of Gerald's basketball teammates. Prevalent in today's teenagers is Gerald's attitude that he can take care of himself; he is a determinedyoung black man. With non-stop excitement, this is well written, easy to read, and possibly an inspiration for anyone trapped in family situations involving child abuse or domestic violence. This tremendous novel by the 1995 winner of the CorettaScott King Genesis Award is recommended for all YA collections.-Kevin Beach and Dr. Beverly B. Youree. Copyright 1997 Voya Reviews

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