How It Went Down

by Kekla Magoon

The murder of African American teenager Tariq Johnson and its aftermath is experienced... read more

The murder of African American teenager Tariq Johnson and its aftermath is experienced through the voices of witnesses, family members, and his best friend, Tyrell. Two facts are clear: A white man got out of his car and shot Tariq. The police have let that man go free. The rest is conflicting perceptions: Had Tariq just robbed a neighborhood store? (The store owner says no, but his voice is lost in the rush to assume the worst.) Did Tariq have a gun or a Snickers bar in his hand? (Even the two teens from the neighborhood standing close to him disagree.) Meanwhile, as the story hits the news, much of the attention from the media focuses not on the murder but on questions about whether Tariq was a member of the Kings, a neighborhood gang. Tariq and his best friends from childhood all swore they’d never join. Two already have; Junior is even in prison. Tyrell thought Tariq and he were staying strong; now he’s not so sure. But he is sure that Tariq’s death will make it much harder for him to not be drawn or forced into that life. Meanwhile Jennica, who did CPR on Tariq, and whose boyfriend Noodle is in the gang, is desperate to escape her current life. Kekla Magoon’s fearless, tragic, poignant novel examines racism, poverty, violence, and how mightily all of these can trap youth by limiting their options — real and perceived. Not every question is answered outright, but Magoon provides evidence for readers to decide for themselves while adding her voice to the urgent call to acknowledge and address racism and violence. (Age 14 and older)

© Cooperative Children's Book Center, Univ. of Wisconsin - Madison, 2015

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