by Ryan Gattis
Publication Date: May 31, 2016
Published by Adaptive Books
When 17-year-old Grey witnesses the tragic death of his mother in Colorado, he is shipped off to live with his aunt in inner-city Baltimore. Grey struggles to fit in to his new school and environment until his new friend, Akil, introduces him to the enigmatic Kurtis, the leader of a group that uses high-octane sports as a form of social activism. By challenging the police with death-defying stunts and then posting videos of them online, Kurtis, Grey, and their group become unlikely heroes in the fight against the prejudice that surrounds them.
As Kurtis takes Grey under his wing, they come up with a name, an insignia and attract more and more followers to their extreme acts. The lines between social activism and criminal behavior blur and their escalating stunts become a rallying point for the underprivileged and disenfranchised around the country, spreading like wildfire across the Internet. How far will Grey and Kurtis go to push their message, and can their fragile alliance withstand their growing power?
Grey is an interesting character because he's in that stage of life where he's discovering the world around him and how is life is shaped by his experiences and how he perceives these experiences. His life has been turned upside down and he's been separated from his siblings after the death of his mother and he must find his way and his place in his aunt's home in a new city. In doing so, readers get to know about him and his passion.
I love the relationship that Grey has with his aunt, Aunt Blue. She's not only his guardian, but she is a confidant too. Grey realizes that he does need guidance and can go to her for help, for advice, he has someone who will listen to him and someone who cares for him. It's an honest relationship. Aunt Blue speaks truths and that's something that Grey needs. Their interactions are some of my favorite moments in the book.
What I liked:
- Grey's relationship with his aunt
- The friendships that develop from purpose
- The use of extreme sports as an expression of self and as an expression of art
- Teens taking action and taking control of their own lives
"It's important, you know," she says, "if you don't know it already, that there's a difference between textbooks and art, Grey."
"Art is ideas in action, " she says. "Art is feelings felt, and possessed, and put in a new way."
"Art -- real art, art from sorrow and pain -- lets you into other people's worlds. Good art makes you feel. Great art changes how you see the world. And it's in that feeling, and it's in that perspective, that we find that we're not alone and we can keep going. Even under the worst of circumstances." - Aunt Blue (pgs. 39-41)
"I mean, realizations are all good, as you say, but you can never be great just thinking anything. Eventually you've got to stand up and do something about it. Action's the only way . . . Philosophy in action is way more that just that. It becomes contagious so long as it's true" - Kurtis (pgs. 135 -136)
"I might not agree with you, but I believe in you, so I'll stand by you." - Aunt Blue (pg. 232)
I'm so glad that I took the time to read AIR because it offers a voice that is rarely heard. I can imagine AIR becoming a classroom favorite appealing to all readers, in fact I plan to recommend it to all of my high school English teacher friends. A great read!
Disclaimer: I received this copy of AIR from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was not compensated in any way other than the book provided. Thoughts and opinions are my own.