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The Word Gang

The Word Gang

By: Mark McKenna
Publisher: Precipitation Press
Publication Date: December 2010
ISBN: 978-0-9831055-3-4
Reviewed by: Amy Lignor 
Review Date: December 15, 2011

This was it. This was the day that Kalisha Jackson had lived in fear of for the past year. Today was the day that she was going back to Jefferson High School after completely ‘skipping’ the previous year and not telling her mother. Last year had been hard. Her father had left the family and went to live with his editor on the West Coast, leaving her, her younger brother and sister, and Mom in a state of confusion, which is why Mom never even realized that Kalisha was staying out of school and spending the days at her best friend, Becca’s house. Becca is a high school drop-out with a brand new baby, an abusive boyfriend, and a penchant for drugs that is getting worse.

Kalisha wants to move away from Becca and get her life back on track, so she gets the news that she is being placed into Project Restart - a program that the school has begun for the ‘problem kids’ as a sort of ‘last chance’ before they will have to face Juvenile Hall.

What no one knows, including the principal, is that the vice-principal, Mr. Ralston, has been chosen to run Project Restart by the millionaire who invented the idea. This money-man has worked with the mayor to ‘slipstream’ these delinquents out of the school system. To them, they are the bad seeds, and if Ralston can get these kids out, the program will open nationwide and he will be able to write his own ticket for the rest of his life. What Ralston doesn’t expect, is the fact that these delinquents are a heck of a lot smarter than he is.

Kalisha becomes friends with BD - a handsome boy who pretty much has to live with a drunken father who likes to fight; and, Sahmbaht Kuhn, a Cambodian student who is seriously funny and wants to fit in with the Americans. With these three in the lead, and the power of the Oxford English Dictionary behind them, they begin to drive Ralston crazy with their grandiose words that he definitely does not understand. Of course, how can you get mad at students for using big words?

Hilarity ensues when these kids stand up for themselves. But the true beauty of the novel is the relationship that Kalisha forms with an elderly man in her building who is the ‘smartest of the smart,’ and offers her pure wisdom that allows Kalisha to cure her relationship with her mother, help her family and best friend, and develop friendships with other students from various backgrounds. The story is kind and extremely heartwarming, as people from different cultures come together to fight for their rights!

Quill Says: A breath of fresh air for the YA market. A solid, fun, memorable story with not one werewolf in sight!

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