Review: Lockdown

by Walter Dean Myers

Reese is in a juvie jail called the Progress Center.  Busted after money woes caused him to steal prescription sheets from a local doctor’s office, he’s almost to the end of his 2.5 year sentence.  Reese is overall a good kid, he’s even scored a spot in a new work release program where he gets out of jail for 10 days a month to work with elderly patients at a place called Evergreen, but Reese has a problem keeping his hands to himself.  If another inmate challenges him, Reese can’t help but defend himself with his fists, and if someone picks on one of his friends, Reese can’t stand by and watch his friends get hurt.  Reese’s heart may be in the right place but that won’t help him if his hands and his tempter keep getting him in trouble.  Will Reese be able to get his act together so he can be released from juvie and get his life on track once he’s back outside?

Reaction: I have only read one other Walter Dean Myers book — I know, for shame! — and it was Monster.  I loved Monster.  I loved the format.  I loved the flawed main character who was a product of both his environment and his own choices.  I loved that I felt for the main character despite not being entirely certain of his innocence.  I loved not really knowing whether he was guilty or innocent, and I love the fact of his guilt or innocence did not really matter to the message of the book.  Monster is obviously a classic.  Though very similar in many respects, Lockdown did not have the same sparkle as Monster.  Lockdown seems to have to try harder and tell more to accomplish a similar goal.  That being said, I read Lockdown pretty much all in one sitting and was invested in Reese and his outcome.

I found Reese to be a very accessible character.  He’s a good kid who loves his sisters, has crappy parents, and has made some bad choices.  He continues to make bad choices while in juvie, especially when it comes to fighting, but, I have to say, I couldn’t help but hope he stepped up and fought in some of the situations.  I can’t imagine how hard it would be to have to decide whether to join a fight when you know you could face severe consequences or not join a fight and watch a friend, someone who is younger, weaker, and more helpless than the person wailing on him, get beat to a pulp.  Because of his actions, because he is in jail, these are the kinds of choices that Reese has to make to survive, to get out, to get on with his life.  I enjoyed Reese’s time at Evergreen and his interactions with Mr. Hooft, a cantankerous old gentleman who lived through a work camp run by the Japanese during World War II only to be left to die pretty much alone, without visitors, in a retirement community.  I also really enjoyed Reese’s sister Isis, called Icy.  She has big dreams — to become President or to be a movie star and win an Oscar.  She is positive and hopeful, dreaming of college when she is only 9 years old.  She gives Reese hope and a reason to stay clean.  He wants to make sure Icy gets everything she wants and needs, and it able to reach her lofty goals.

While I do wish WDM had taken some more risks with the formatting, I can’t deny that Lockdown is compelling and will draw in readers who loved Monster and love Walter Dean Myers.


About Casey

I am a librarian who loves all things reading, especially teen literature.
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