Title: “Anger is a Gift”
Author: Mark Oshiro
Pages (hardcover): 463 pages
Original Publishing Date: 22 May 2018
Synopsis (from the inside flap):
“Moss Jeffries is many things — considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.
“But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else — someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.
“And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.
“Moss can’t even escape at school — he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure of West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. It feels sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals.
“Something needs to change — but who will listen to a group of teens?
“When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
Trigger/Content warnings for the novel:
- police violence/brutality
- panic attacks
- character death
Representation in the novel:
- f/f relationship
- m/m relationship
- gay rep
- bisexual rep
- biromantic rep
- asexual rep
- non-binary rep
- hijabi rep
- anxiety and/or panic disorder rep
- almost every character is black or otherwise a character of color
As a side note, I just want to say that I’m not quite sure if I got all the rep in this book. There was a lot of it, which is why I just put the individual identities down. A lot of them intersect.
Lemme just say…this definitely got me out of the reading slump I was in.
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro is a YA contemporary centered around Moss, a gay black teen whose father was shot and killed by police when he was ten years old. He and his friends are just trying to get through school, but it’s hard when the school decides to team up with Oakland PD for a pilot, allowing cops and metal detectors at school. The tension continues to rise, as Moss and his friends and partner try to do something about the increasing police presence.
To say I enjoyed this book isn’t really right. I wasn’t happy about the things that transpire, most of the time, and a lot of it had me thinking of the parallels between the book and events that have been going on in the United States for the past…forever, basically. And I did cry, multiple times. However, I do have to say that the characters were, at times, fun to read, and I’m glad I picked up this book.
Speaking of the characters…shit. There was so much diversity, and I loved it! There were (as far as I remember), two trans girls, a few non-binary teens, an ace girl, a hijabi, lesbian moms, a few gay kids, and probably more that I forgot. Along with that, almost all the characters were either black or otherwise non-white! I was glad to see all that diversity.
Still on the subject of the characters, I absolutely loved the relationships everyone had. The connections that friend group had were awesome, and the relationship between Moss and his mom… That was amazing to read. They both loved each other so much, and I loved that.
Although, I do have to point out something I wasn’t so happy about: the way Moss treated Esperanza and his mom (at times). Let me preface this with saying that I get that Esperanza has privilege due to her parents being upper-middle class at the very least, and that she is able to live in a richer neighborhood and go to a more prestigious school. She probably would never truly understand what Moss and the rest of their friend group go through. I also understand Moss’ anger at what her parents did; it was simply inexcusable.
But. From what I’ve read and remembered, it always seems like whenever Moss got angry at Esperanza or his mom, he was let off the hook, even if what he said was truly hurtful. Nearly every time, it seemed like Esperanza and/or his mom had to rush to comfort him. Who knows, I might be speaking out of line, but I truly didn’t like how he treated the both of them at times throughout the novel. I like to think that his and Esperanza’s relationship begins to rebuild after the end of the novel, and that he and his mom can have a more open dialogue between the two, but. It just made me uncomfortable sometimes.
On to the plot, even though I was engaged the entire time, I felt that it was a bit choppy sometimes. The chapters sometimes tripped me up, with one chapter that may be ten or twelve pages, and the next only being two or three. Overall, though, the plot was pretty quick, and I thought the dialogue was good, too.
I really think that the good outweighed the bad, which is why I have it at four stars, and not three or three and a half stars. Because I truly think Anger is a Gift is a really good book. However, keep in mind the triggers/content warnings. Although there may not be a ton, the ones that are present can be pretty graphic. If anyone is especially sensitive towards police violence, panic attacks, and deaths of loved ones, just make sure to take caution and take care of yourself if need be as you read through the book.