Most of the buzz around this book comes from its inclusion of the Black Panthers as a plot element, since most books for kids and teens set in this time period only show the passive resistance viewpoint. However, what makes this book wonderful is its portrayal of a family torn apart by different views of how to fight for the same side in the same battle.
Sam, the hero, is forced to choose between the opinions of his pacifist reformist father and his brother, who joins the militant Black Panthers. But how can he choose between the father he loves and the brother who's been there for him all his life? Sam's journey takes him to both extremes until he finally realizes that he can be both the rock and the river, but he learns this truth at a terrible price.
The well-written prose gives deep insight into the emotional conflict of the father and the brothers, and the politically-charged, powder keg plot will hold the reader until the conclusion.
The one flaw in this book was the two-dimensional nature of the female characters. The hero's girlfriend exists merely to move the plot along and is extremely wimpy for a Black Panther. The hero's mother is a "stay in the kitchen and do what my husband says" type who only exists so there will be someone to hug the brothers and cry when they're in danger. Women played strong roles in the civil rights movement, and I wish this narrative had found a way to reflect that fact.
Recommend to: Age 14+, readers of all walks
Don't recommend to: Readers who cannot handle tragedy