Author: Walter Dean Myers
Published: April 24 2012
Source: Won from Goodreads First Reads
Read: July 14-15
My Rating: 4 stars
In A Few Words: Meaningful and Insightful
Goodreads: Add it to your to-read shelf
Goodreads Synopsis: A provocative new novel from the national ambassador for young people's literature and the "New York Times" bestselling author of "Monster"
Who's on top of the social food chain? How do you get ahead? Who makes the rules? Who needs to follow them?
Paul DuPree is working at a soup kitchen in Harlem the summer his father dies, just trying to get by. But Elijah, the soup man, won't stop talking about the social contract and asking Paul questions about heavy-duty things. Paul has never thought about this stuff. He'd rather hang out with Keisha, an unwed teen mom whose basketball skills rival his own.
Then Sly, a notorious Harlem big shot, shows up. Paul is both intrigued and intimidated by Sly and his conspiracy theories, and for once he starts contemplating how you really get ahead in life. As the talk of what-ifs turns into reality, Paul realizes his summer is about more than getting by--it's about taking charge of your life.
(I agree, social theory often gave me a headache too, when I was learning it!)
But, little by little, he starts to absorb the information, really thinking about it, turning it over in his head, and applying it to his own life and the lives of those around him. He makes some pretty stark and meaningful realizations, the main one being that no matter the hand you're dealt, you are responsible for your own life, and what you do with it.
Here's a quote that really stood out while I was reading and helps support my point above:
"Life is going to be harder for some people. It's going to be harder at different times in our lives. But, if you're not ready to die today, then you're going to be responsible for tomorrow whether you like it or not." (pg.149)I think almost anyone can relate to this. We've all gone through tough times in our lives. But, we are the ones that are responsible for what happens, we are responsible for changing our situation. It may not always be easy, but it can be done.
This is something that I can relate to personally, as I've gone through some trying times as of late. It hasn't been easy and it hasn't been fun, but I'm trying my best to change things. To learn from these things, grow, and use what I've learned to help me with whatever life throws at me.
And that's what Paul does as well. You can see him struggle as he really tries to decide where certain people fit in terms of social contract theory, particularly his father. He doesn't always like the thoughts that he has about him, but you start to see that as a whole, the concept of social contract theory actually gives him something to grab onto, a way to digest and relate his experiences and make it work for his life.
There's also a kind of pay it forward element here too, which I really enjoyed. Paul takes what he's learned and passes it on to Keisha, the girl he's mentoring, to try and help her out as well.
I think that this book is helpful for young and older adults because the analogies are easy to relate to. I sure could have used this particular story when I was taking Social Theory, it would have helped me have a few less headaches that's for sure.
On a less philosophical, more fun note, there are a lot of delicious soups in here that I would love to make sometime. The fact that Paul is learning all these things through his summer job in a soup kitchen is one of the parts of the book I like most, because I really think that you can learn a lot about life, and about yourself when you learn to do something as simple as cooking under the guise of a wise teacher.