Walter Dean Myers

Jamal is a twelve year - old boy who lives together with his mother and his little sister, called Sassy. His older brother Randy, the former leader of the famous gang called the "Scorpions", got arrested in case of murder. The mother desperately tries to earn enough money to be able to pay a lawyer in order to get her son out of jail, but when the salary of the lawyer rises up from 500 Dollars to 2000 Dollars, it nearly seems to be impossible for the poor family.

Jamal leads quite a normal life. He is not very good in school, the principal does not like him and a big boy called Dwayne always messes round with him. Although Jamal is a lot smaller than Dwayne, he is tough and does not fear him. His best friend, Tito, is often by Jamal’s side and they are doing a lot of things together.
One day, Jamal meets Mack, a friend of Randy and a member of the Scorpions. Jamal does not like Mack because he is kind of strange and nearly all the time drunk and high, that’s also the reason why his mother does not want him to meet Mack. Mack has also been involved into the crime of Randy, but he managed somehow not to get busted. He says that he and Jamal’s brother want Jamal to take over the Scorpions and become the new leader.

Extract, page 78 - Mack talks to Jamal

The building that Mack went into was old. The mailbox in the small hallway was dented, and the plaster chipped away from one corner.
"There’s a meeting of the Scorpions today," Mack said.
Jamal hadn’t noticed before that Mack’s breath smelled of wine.
"What the meeting about?"
"I told them you were taking over the gang," Mack said. "They want to meet you."
"What they say when you told them that?"
"They say they want to vote for a new leader, but I told them that Randy said you was the new leader. They don’t want to deal with that, then they got to deal with me," Mack said.
"What you got to do to get into the gang?" Tito asked.
"Jamal say you can be in it, you in it," Mack said.
"So we go over to the clubhouse now so they can scope you"
"Yeah, okay. You coming, Tito?"
"Randy say I should be your warlord because, you know, when they’s a fight or anything, I can really get down," Mack said.
"Bet!" Mack and Jamal exchanged fives, and then Mack and Tito.
"Let’s go on over there," Mack said. "Yeah, and here the thing. Put it in your belt, man."
Jamal took the shiny pistol from Mack and put it in his belt.

All the Scorpions think that Jamal is too young to take the job as the leader. Jamal and Tito are somehow frightened, only the shining gun impresses the Scorpions and holds them off from beating Jamal and Tito out of the house.
One day, Jamal again has a quarrel with Dwayne. Dwayne wants to fight Jamal and so they meet in a storeroom in school. Jamal has taken his gun with him, and when Dwayne starts to kick and punch him, he pulls out the weapon and aims at the scared boy, threatening him to shoot him dead. After that he runs away and wonders if it was right what he has done, maybe he would be suspended from school if it comes out that he carried a gun. Tito and Jamal decide that it would be better if Tito keeps the gun at home, but his grandmother Abuela finds the gun and sends Tito away, telling him not to come back. The whole situation gets out of control, and when finally Randy gets stabbed in jail, Jamal wants to leave the Scorpions. At night, he and Tito meet with Indian and Angel, two members of the Scorpions, and claim that they leave the leadership up to Indian, when they pay the fine to get Randy out of jail. Indian and Angel get mad and start to beat Jamal hard, while Tito stays in the background. When they pull out a knife and nearly stab Jamal, Tito draws the gun and fires at the two Scorpions. Angel dies and Indian gets deadly injured, thinking that Mack was the one who shot at them. The shocked Tito can’t endure what he has done, although it was self - defence to save Jamal’s life he tells his grandmother about the fact that he shot at two people. Abuela and Tito fly back to Puerto Rico, but both, Jamal and Tito, won’t ever forget each other.

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