Julia Devino has always steered clear of the gang trouble that surrounds her at school, despite having friends in each of the major gangs. But at South Bay High, sometimes it’s easier to join up than to stay out. When Julia meets Eric Valiente, a seriously hot tranfers student who has big plans for his life and shows no interest in getting jumped in, she falls hard and fast. And when he gets jumped into the Flatbush Junction Crips without telling her, she finds herself thrust into the middle of all the gang action, and is soon labelled a snitch by the Bloods-associated RLB.
First off, the cover of Snitch has enormous teen appeal, and it flies off the shelf here at my library. And while the writing starts off a little choppy, once Julia’s relationship with Eric gets off its feet the book really rolls along. It paints a convincing picture of the many ways that teens can get pulled into a gang lifestyle even when they have no interest in joining. Julia’s loneliness when she’s been ostracized is palpable, and you can feel her relief when she finds a new group of friends (and protectors) in the FJC. And while the beginning of Julia’s time with the FJC is not exactly rosy, it’s not so awful either – the book doesn’t shy away from showing the good things about having a group of people watching out for you. As Julia sees further into the power-struggles and politics of her new gang it is clear to both the reader and to Julia herself that she has made a decision that could destroy her future.
The absence of adult involvement really struck me in this book. While Julia’s dad and her teacher Ms. Ivey both clearly cared about Julia and were concerned about her, neither one of them made much of an attempt to reach out, and they certainly didn’t take any steps to help her.
Julia’s character is a strong, independant young woman, but she is sometimes incredibly naive for a person who’s grown up with gangs all around her. The most compelling characters to me were Eric and Black Chuck – two young men who are smart and funny and full of potential, but have been pulled into gangs because of family involvement. Eric’s back story, which is hidden from Julia for most of the story, adds both a wonderful twist to the story and additional depth to van Diepen’s novel.