This novel by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely tells the story of Rashad and Quinn, two teenagers whose lives are changed after an incident of police brutality divides their community.

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Explore the Words

definitions & notes only words
  1. opportunity
    a possibility from a favorable combination of circumstances
    I didn’t need ROTC. But I did it, and I did it good, because my dad was pretty much making me. He’s one of those dudes who feels like there’s no better opportunity for a black boy in this country than to join the army.
  2. drone
    talk in a monotonous voice
    “And I knew what he was trying to tell me: to get out,” Dad would drone. “But I didn’t know where I was going to go or what I was going to do. I didn’t really do that well in school, and well, college just wasn’t in the cards.”
  3. stereotypical
    lacking spontaneity or originality or individuality
    He was the stereotypical green-eyed pretty boy with parents who spoiled him, so he had fly clothes and tattoos.
  4. cocky
    overly self-confident or self-assertive
    But, unstereotypically, he wasn’t cocky about it like you would think, which of course made the ladies and the teachers and the principal and the parents and even the basketball coach even more crazy about him.
  5. comeback
    a quick reply to a question or remark
    “I don’t even have no girlfriend,” Carlos said. But that didn’t matter. Cracking a joke about somebody’s girlfriend—real or imaginary—is just a great comeback.
  6. mandatory
    required by rule
    He and Shannon didn’t have mandatory basketball practice like usual, but were still going to the gym to shoot around because, well, that’s what they did every day.
  7. dilemma
    state of uncertainty in a choice between unfavorable options
    While I was trying to figure this out—decisions, decisions—the other person in the store, a white lady who looked like she’d left her office job early—navy-blue skirt, matching blazer, white sneakers—seemed to be dealing with the same dilemma, but with the beer right behind me. And I couldn’t blame her. Jerry’s had every kind of beer you could think of.
  8. topple
    fall down, as if collapsing
    I thrust one hand down on the floor to save myself from a nasty face-plant, sending the bag of chips up the aisle, while she toppled over, slowly, trying to catch her balance, but failing and falling half on me and half on the floor.
  9. scowl
    a facial expression of dislike or displeasure
    “Yeah, he was trying to steal those chips!” the clerk interrupted, shouting over the cop’s shoulder. Then, fixing his scowl back on me, he said, “Isn’t that right? Isn’t that what you were trying to do? Isn’t that what you put in your bag?”
  10. reflex
    an automatic instinctive unlearned reaction to a stimulus
    My hands were already up, a reflex from seeing a cop coming toward me.
  11. submission
    the condition of ceding control to someone or something else
    But before I could even get my fingers on the money, the cop had me knotted up in a submission hold, my arms twisted behind me, pain searing up to my shoulders.
  12. authority
    the power or right to give orders or make decisions
    Need to learn how to respect authority. And I’m gonna teach you,” he taunted, almost whispering in my ear.
  13. bawl
    shout loudly and without restraint
    But they called her as soon as we got to the hospital, and when she got there, she gave me the third degree right there in front of everybody. Hell of a bawling.
  14. dutiful
    willingly obedient out of a sense of respect
    That was my role: the dutiful son, the All-American boy with an All-American fifteen-foot deadeye jump shot and an All-American 3.5 GPA.
  15. paranoid
    suffering from delusions of persecution or grandeur
    It wasn’t far, either, but Ma and the Cambis were paranoid about the two-block stretch between our houses.
  16. decline
    a condition inferior to an earlier condition
    But I loved the West Side. I’d lived here my whole life. What the hell did people really mean when they said the West Side was on the decline?
  17. pummel
    strike, usually with the fist
    But I knew enough to know that you stayed out of police business, plus Paul didn’t need my help because he was pummeling the guy.
  18. transfix
    render motionless because of surprise, terror, or awe
    So I just stood there, sorta frozen, just watching, transfixed.
  19. misdemeanor
    a crime less serious than a felony
    The officer read the citations and explained that even though they were all misdemeanors, I had been processed and would still have to appear in court.
  20. wince
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    “Ma,” I said, instantly wincing. I could feel the gauze taped to my face, to my nose. It’s that same tight feeling my skin gets after swimming, after the chlorine has turned me into cardboard.
  21. alternative
    one of a number of things from which only one can be chosen
    But I was okay. Hell, I was alive. And so the other stuff—well, the alternative was way worse.
  22. interrogate
    pose a series of questions to
    “Were your pants sagging?” Dad interrogated, now back over by the door.
    “Were my pants sagging?” I repeated, shocked by the question. “What does that have to do with anything?”
  23. obligatory
    required by compulsion or convention
    First was the obligatory mother hug. Spoony ran over to our mom and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.
  24. gritty
    determined and willing to face danger
    That was just his style. That was pretty much his whole generation’s style. Nineties hip-hop, gritty, realness. Wu-Tang. Biggie. Hoodies and unlaced boots.
  25. laceration
    a torn ragged wound
    “Okay, so Rashad’s nose was broken, but we’ve already set it, so as long as he doesn’t bump it or knock it, it’ll heal just fine. The same goes for his ribs. There’s really nothing we can do about them except make sure that Rashad isn’t in any pain, but as long as they’re fairly stable, they’ll heal up as well. We did do an X-ray just to make sure there were no lacerations to any of his organs, and there weren’t, so we’re pretty much in the clear with that.”
  26. circumstance
    the set of facts that surround a situation or event
    Under normal circumstances I would say that Rashad could go home tonight.” Ma stopped rubbing my hand. The doctor continued. “But this isn’t a normal circumstance.
  27. impact
    the striking of one body against another
    He has some internal bleeding—hemothorax, it’s called—which just means there are some torn blood vessels around his lungs due, I’m sure, to the impact.
  28. nestle
    move or arrange oneself in a comfortable and cozy position
    My mother, small, had tucked her knees to her chest and nestled into her chair—the only cushioned one—like a child.
  29. melee
    a noisy riotous fight
    I’ve seen ten guys from our school chasing four dudes from another school down a block and a stranger step into the melee with a bat to protect the guys who were outnumbered.
  30. derelict
    a person without a home, job, or property
    “Is this how you want the world to know you? Some kind of derelict who doesn’t give a damn about his actions?”
  31. askew
    turned or twisted to one side
    She sat on one side of the little Formica table, steam from her mug of tea rising up to her face as she stared out the window to the Barrows’ house next door. The flask lay askew beside the mug.
  32. oblivious
    lacking conscious awareness of
    He looked over at me and waved, totally oblivious to the rest of the players and balls around him.
  33. conspiratorial
    relating to or characteristic of a secret plot or agreement
    Her hair fell in two blond-brown curtains around her face, and I could smell her shampoo as she looked up at me conspiratorially, and when a girl looks at you like that, all you can say is, Whatever you want—I'll do anything for you—is there anything else you want?
  34. disperse
    move away from each other
    Another cop car pulled up and then another, then all eight cops started asking the crowd to disperse, only holding a few people back to ask questions.
  35. distracted
    having the attention diverted especially because of anxiety
    I could tell Jill was as distracted as I was, as if we both had private conversations going on in the back of our minds, and we used Willy, sandwiched between us, as the focal point of conversation.
Created on July 19, 2017 (updated April 8, 2019)

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