REVIEW #125: Kindness for Weakness by Shawn Goodman

Title: Kindness for Weakness
Author: Shawn Goodman
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: May 14, 2013
Pages: 272, Hardcover
Source: Library

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest meets Catcher in the Rye.

A fifteen-year-old boy from an abusive home desperately seeking his older brother's love and approval starts pushing drugs for him and suffers the consequences.

The synopsis for this book does not reveal much so I didn't really know what to expect when picking up Kindness for Weakness. I guess my love of contemporary and male POV is what really compelled me. That, and what we do get in terms of a summary hints at a serious and thought-provoking story. Whatever the reason, I am so glad I read this book because it was every bit as eye-opening as I thought it would be. Shawn Goodman told a story that needed to be told. And it broke my heart. 

Meet James:
"I know how stupid this sounds, but I don't feel like a kid, at least not like the kind of fifteen-year-old kid who should be hanging out with friends and getting busy with girls. For one thing, I don't have friends. And there have never been any girls. But the main reason I don't feel like a regular kid is because I have to worry about so many things. I worry about Louis staying under the cops' radar. I worry about my mother paying the rent on time so we won't get evicted again. I worry about what I'm going to eat next, and if I'll ever have enough money to take a girl out on a date (assuming there will someday be a girl who would go on a date with me). But my biggest fear is that the world has made up its mind about me: I'm not wanted. I'm out. This is what fills my head when I walk the trestle that cuts through the backyards of other people' lives, people who are wanted. Those who fit in."
Doesn't your heart just go out to him? James is a good kid in a bad life. And in the life he lives, his Achilles heel is seeing the best in people. Despite evidence to the contrary, James believes that his brother Louis has his back. But when James gets busted for selling drugs for Louis, he finds himself alone, sentenced to a year in juvie.

James knows what he did was wrong so he understands and accepts his punishment but it is clear that he doesn't belong there. The other kids are filled with violence and hate. Everyone is always fighting and belittling one another to prove who is the toughest. And some get out only to wind up right back in for another offense. And the guards are even worse. They are corrupt and unforgiving. They use excessive violence to maintain order and are never held accountable for anything. Nobody is trying to help these kids. Nobody cares.

I have never read anything like this. Seeing juvie through James' perspective, the perspective of good, was both heartbreaking and condemning. James was so aware of himself and his surroundings. Despite the odds, he managed to stay true to himself. It wasn't easy. And there were bumps in the road. People tried to break him down. To make him like them. But James was better than that. He knew better than that. 

I am not a 15 year old boy from a broken home with no friends and no hope so I can't say that I could relate to James but I could definitely feel for him. His loneliness and simple desire to be loved could not be ignored. It was like a physical presence in this book. It's what got him in trouble in the first place.

At the beginning of the book, James had so much learn, especially where others were concerned. He wanted so much to be strong. To be able to do something about all of the bad in his life. To be a man. At first he didn't understand what that meant. At first, he looked up to his brother. But he slowly learned, with books to guide him. His journey to be brave and take control was inspirational. And he comes so far by the end of the book.  He deserves so much credit, so much more than he gave himself. He was an amazing kid.

The ending literally broke my heart. Shattered it to pieces. I am sure it will bring many of your to tears. But I am so grateful to Shawn Goodman for telling this story. Thank you!



  1. I've never heard of this book, but clearly, I'm missing out! This sounds FANTASTIC. I love that it's a male POV story, I love that it's a grittier contemporary and most of all, I love that it ends on a hopeful note. Definitely going to have to look into reading this one!

  2. I haven't heard of this book before, but it's interesting. I always like a male POV and it seems like James is a wonderful character to read about.

  3. Wow, this sounds like an amazing book. I will add it to my TBR pile for sure. I will also make sure to have some tissues handy. I can be an emotional reader sometimes.


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