Ｔｉｔｌｅ：Anger is a Gift
Ｒａｔｉｎｇ：★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
＊Ｎｏｔｅ：I received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A story of resilience and loss, love and family, Mark Oshiro’s Anger is a Gift testifies to the vulnerability and strength of a community living within a system of oppression.
Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.
Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
✩ Moss was funny and strong in the sense that he didn’t let things keep him down. He was also a loyal and supportive friend.
✩ Esperanza was kind of oblivious to Moss’s struggle. She didn’t truly understand it until later. She was supportive and patient. I’d also say she was really passionate.
✩ Javier was charming and kind. He did his best to learn about Moss and understand him rather than ignore that Moss had issues to work through.
❝ Anger. It was that same unwanted tourist most days, not because Moss saw no need for it, but because he was tired of it consuming him so often. ❞
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a copy of this book! All opinions are my own!
This book was powerful and had so many great aspects to it that I was just blown away. It was diverse in its characters’ racial/ethnic, sexual orientation, and SES (Socio-Economic Status) representation. Plus, it dealt with social injustice and mental health. This book really took on a lot and I felt like it balanced it all so perfectly. I was impressed with this debut YA.
The story basically follows Moss, his friends, and family as they struggle to deal with the new policies at their school. With each new rule, the tension between the Oakland Police Department and the students gets higher and higher. Incident after incident adds up until the students decide they’ve had enough and start to protest.
Moss was an interesting character to me right off the bat because of his mental health issues. He struggled with anxiety and panic attacks left over after his father was shot and killed by the Oakland police. Later on, he reveals how he has body image issues. He was funny and kind, likable. I liked the way he kept his father’s memory alive by keeping a “Rolodex” in his mind of various memories. He wasn’t perfect, but he always tried to fight back against the negativity in his mind and I loved him for it.
I could also appreciate that despite being LGBTQ, the book did not necessarily focus on the fact that many of the characters were gay, bi, or lesbian. It mentioned it and we followed some romances closer than others, but it wasn’t given extra attention. It was kind of just worked in and taken as normal without going through the drama of coming out or struggling to accept oneself. Not to say that those things are bad in a book, but I’m glad that this one just lets you enjoy the characters for who they were and focused on the social injustice instead.
Another great aspect of the book was the community and family support shown throughout. I liked that all of the mothers in the book came together and supported one another. They were always coming over to help one another make dinner, to take care of the children, to share updates with one another, and just to show a united front. Most of the parents were very open with their children. There was trust among the family, love, acceptance. Plus, later on we get to see the community coming together as well to support Moss and the other students in their fight against injustice.
❝ ” […] And that’s the problem you can’t see. To you, it’s an answer, but to us, it’s a question that never existed in the first place.” ❞
Although there are many characters to focus on I think the most important relationship in the story was between Moss and Esperanza. They were best friends and so they shared pretty much everything, but you could tell that her upbringing did put some distance between them because Esperanza couldn’t really understand what Moss and his family/community experienced. She could hear about it from him, but she had an outsider’s point of view and so it didn’t feel like she really understood him. It was easy for her to say that they should stand up for themselves or protest because she didn’t seem to understand the constant state of fear and injustice that the rest of them experienced. This was something that frustrated Moss. And when she eventually understands, it’s kind of this… heartbreaking moment because yes, she gets it, but it’s a hard lesson to learn and one you kind of wish she never had to go through.
Esperanza isn’t the only one who goes through some growth in this book. We see Moss go from someone who’s a little insecure and kind of plays it safe to someone who is more confident, passionate, and willing to fight injustice. Although… this change is kind of like climbing a hill in a way. He starts at the bottom, reaches a high point… and then the ending happens.
The ending was just so… bittersweet. All of the tragedy and suffering comes together to a single powerful moment where Moss realizes just how much of an influence a single person standing up against the Oakland PD can have, but the book takes a turn and then… well, things happen. The ending seems like a win, but it’s such a small one when you think of everything that’s happened–and Moss realizes it too. It had a tired kind of feeling to it and it just… wow. I just had to finish the last page and sit there to kind of process all of it.
This is definitely one of those books that will light a fire in you and make you want to fight back, but it also has that last punch that takes your breath away.
Anger is a Gift was just released May 22nd so go pick up a copy, I highly recommend it!