Reviewed by Christian C. for TeensReadToo.com
It's the summer of 1925 in Harlem, a summer that sixteen-year-old Mark Purvis will never forget. In just a months time, Mark will get to meet the best and the worst people of New York City.
Mark gets a job at The Crisis, a magazine that promotes and encourages "New Negroes." The magazine was part of a movement created during that time with a mission to discover talented persons of color -- poets, novelists, and musicians -- and show them to the world.
But Mark is not so sure that he wants to become a "New Negro." What he really wants to do is become a famous jazz player and play the saxophone with his band. So when "Fats," a well known piano player who made records, offers him and his friend, Henry, what sounds like an "innocent" job loading trucks in New Jersey, Mark and Henry don't think twice. This could be the opportunity they were looking for, their big break, a golden chance to be with "Fats" and tell him all about their jazz band. Maybe he could even help them get a record deal.
What Mark didn't know is that the job was actually for the most dangerous man and leading bootlegger, Dutch Schultz. And Mark didn't know that what they helped load was illegal alcohol, and that the truck driver was going to drive away, all of a sudden, with the merchandise. And now Dutch Schultz wants his money back, and he wants Mark and Henry to pay for it.
Will Mark get the money for Dutch Shultz? Will Mark become a "New Negro?" Will he be able to keep his job at The Crisis? Or will Mark end up traveling the wrong path? You'll have to read the book to find out.
Every single word in Walter Dean Myers' book flows effortlessly in this entertaining novel. He makes writing look easy.
HARLEM SUMMERS is a book that will strike a chord with all readers. Parents will love the lack of cursing and sex often seen in young adult literature. (Although, to be honest, I think that the author could have used some more cursing to make the dialogue sound a little more realistic.) Teachers and librarians will LOVE this novel that complements perfectly what we studied in 8th-grade social studies. I'm sure that this book will soon be part of many recommended summer reading lists. nd teens will love the story, because after all... who wouldn't want to meet the head of a notorious gang?!
The end of the book contains a section with biographical information of real individuals that appear in the book and lived in New York City during that period, like Alfred Knopf, Langston Hughes, "Bumby" Johnson, and others.