Alex Kotlowitz is a reporter, and as such, he creates
a narrative that is much like reading a newspaper. His prose is sparse and to
the point without much philosophizing. He leaves most conclusions about what he
presents to the reader. And yet he appeals to our heart with his presentation
and expresses empathy in his narration.
The rising action begins with the boys' trip to the railroad tracks,
which leaves a lasting impression on Pharoah and ends with Lafeyette's arrest
for vandalizing a car.
The falling action can be found in the Epilogue where the author tells the fates
of all the important characters at the point when he leaves them in 1989.
The point of view is third person omniscient.
The author has total control of the narrative and tells it, with the exception
of the Preface and the Epilogue, as if he is god-like. In the Preface and the
Epilogue, he uses first person to explain why he wrote the book and the outcomes
for the characters.
There are several other literary devices
that pop up at various times in the story. One is foreshadowing which frequently
presents clues of something that will happen later in the novel. Some examples
of foreshadowing include:
1. LaJoe assertion that you can smell the
coming of death in the fetid pools of water, the garbage, or rotting cat carcasses
foreshadows Bird Leg's murder.
2. Pharoah had good dreams and his
stutter is almost gone, two signs that he will probably do well in the spelling
3. Bad weather, his insistence in going outside, and his false
arrest foreshadow Craig Davis' death.
One of the most important elements to note is irony - when something
happens, or is seen, or is heard that we may know, but the characters do not,
or that appears opposite of what is expected. Some examples of irony include:
1. It is ironic that Henry Horner Homes sit so close to downtown
Chicago that all the important white people and tourists could watch from the
Sears Tower as Lafeyette ducks gunfire on his birthday.
2. Lafeyette cautions Pharoah about Rickey who could get him
in trouble, but in the end, Lafeyette begins to hang out with Rickey himself.
3. It's ironic that the Chicago school system labels children who
drop out of school before the age of sixteen as lost rather than a dropout.
They have used a word that profoundly describes most of the children in the projects.
4. It's ironic that Urica Winder, eight years old, had the courage
to stand up in court and testify against her attackers when most adults were too
5. It's ironic that Lafeyette poses in the picture of the
Four Corner Hustlers when he doesn't really want to be there.
becomes obsessed with politics, which is ironic given that politicians have mostly
ignored his people trapped in the projects.
7. One of the few times
that Lafeyette smiles after Craig and Scooter's deaths comes when he makes a sad
joke about rapists taking refuge in liquor stores.
8. It's ironic
that Terence is sentenced on the same day Richard J. Daly is elected mayor of
Chicago. He has become a lost child, and the politicians are silent.
9. Pharoah visits Dawn who is feeling despair and hopelessness, because she hasn't
found a job. In the midst of these feelings, he still leaves, saying, Have a
10. After her children earn eight ribbons at the final-day
assembly, LaJoe wears them on her shirt, and she looks like decorated war hero.
This is ironic given that the family lives every day in a war zone.
11. It's ironic that on the day Lafeyette goes to court, Rickey, the friend they
were all wary of, is just completing a two-week stay in detention for a smash-and-grab.