When Torrey Maldonado conceived of the idea to write Hands, he wished to produce a much needed book for readers—especially those living in rough neighborhoods—who might be wondering whether fighting is an essential component for survival. He knew the book would have to be a fast-paced, thin one so that readers wouldn’t get “weighed down” by heavy content. He hoped not only to inspire readers to feel more positive but to empower them to respond to challenges in productive ways. He succeeds with Hands, a 136-page book thick with complexity and targeted for tweens.
At age ten, Trevor follows in his stepdad’s footsteps, thinking he’s “the Man” around whom the sun revolves. But when that man strikes Trevor’s mother and ends up in jail for two years, Trevor is crazy with worry. How will he protect his sisters and his mother against a potential second-round of domestic violence?
Growing up in his neighborhood, Trevor has often heard, “Sometimes you just gotta throw hands” (21), so he trades the pictures he has drawn of comic book heroes and pasted on his bedroom wall for photos of Creed, Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, and other famous boxers. His friend Pete, aka P, becomes his sparring partner.
While he hones his muscles and his reflexes, Trevor keeps hearing his mother’s words, calling him a Gentle Giant and reminding him to “be a rainbow in someone’s cloud” (24). Although he idolizes his mother, Trevor doesn’t want to be seen as soft. However, when Trevor asks the local trainer at the rec center for boxing lessons, he is turned down—based on a promise Quick made to Trevor’s Uncle Lou. “[Lou wanted] you to be different” (50).
Conflicted and missing the male influence on his life like a plant misses the sun, this talented artist has to learn the true meaning of strength and how choosing to be a rainbow takes a different kind of strength. From various mentors like the local garage manager Uncle Larry and his English teacher Ms. Clark, he gets tips about how “solving things with anger—the Darth Vader way—won’t take [him] to a good place” (118) and how a promise made to protect his mother and his sisters shouldn’t hurt his own promise, his potential. Trevor further realizes that thinking with his fists has unintended consequences and that the hands can be used as tools of creation, not destruction.
- Posted by Donna