Elijah is already being scouted for college basketball which is his ticket out of his rough neighborhood. His coach lets him know that some recruiters will be watching at the upcoming street ball three-on-three tournament. When one of his best friends, Michael, shows up with some brand new shoes for their team Elijah is so anxious to make a good impression he ignores his uneasy feeling and uses the new gear. Turns out the new stuff was provided by local gang Blood Street Nation and now the boys are indebted to them. But when their mothers find out about the gang tie-in, they make Elijah and his friends give up the clothes and go back to their old tattered uniforms. But renouncing the gang has some serious consequences.
Let's just start with the moms making the boys give up the gang presents. When the boys do that, the gang retaliates in an extreme way and then all the mothers are shocked and spend some time wondering how anyone could have ever guessed that the gang would do something like that. Ummm...EVERYONE? Anyone who has read or watched or lived a gang story knows that you don't just say "I'd like to be out now" or publicly diss the gang without suffering an extreme consequence. And these people live in a gang-infested neighborhood so surely they would know that. That's just one of the issues I have with this book. Another is Elijah's lackadaisical attitude towards finding a solution to the problem of the gang threats. He takes his time thinking about what to do, time I don't believe he would have in real life. And his best resource, a former special forces soldier who is something of a mentor to him, does some Mr. Miyagi stuff but there is no scene that points out how imploding the shed means he should do THIS to solve the problem. It's just too unrealistic which is surprising for a book that I think is meant to be very realistic and gritty.