In Harlem, New York, Black writer Darius and Dominican runner Twig are best friends trying to become successful.
Yet, bullies, family problems, and other people’s expectations try to shape and define them. Both of them will have to discover the courage to take the first step towards living their dreams. A premise like this seems simple, but this brief book summary belies a complex and powerful story.
One of the first things that made me fall hard for this book was the voice of Darius. He has two different voices in this book: the voice of Darius the writer and teenager and the voice of Darius as a falcon. By writing and imagining himself as a falcon, Darius is able to see himself as powerful and capable, something that can overcome the obstacles in his life.
In fact, Darius and Twig’s have many obstacles. Darius has to look out for a mother with depression and a lively younger brother, while Twig is facing career pressure from his Uncle Ernesto and bullying from a duo named Midnight and Twig. Not to mention, both of them deal with racist microgressions from certain adults in their lives that are supposed to be teachers and mentors.
As a result of these issues, Darius and Twig become very conscious of the price of standing out to their ethnicity and for their individual talents. In chapter twenty, Twig has a heart-to-heart with Darius when he feels caught between standing out and getting put down for it and standing out and becoming successful. While Darius is able to encourage his friend, coming to terms with standing out becomes a major part of Darius’ growth as a writer and a person.
Out of everything in this book, the cost and triumphs that come from standing out resonated with me the most. Since I had insecurities similar to Darius and Twig’s when I was in high school, I believe that this book would’ve been comforting and inspiring for me as a teen. The late Walter Dean Myers’ has authentically captured what it’s like to feel out of place and I’m thankful that Black teens today have this book to turn to.
In fact, the only thing more emotionally driven than feeling like you shouldn’t stand out is feeling absolutely worthless as a person. One antagonistic character in the book is humanized through a shocking, grim turn of events that shows that finding your worth as a Black person can be harder for some. Ultimately, this character serves as a cautionary tale that encourages the reader to examine themselves and the racist socio-economic circumstances that can negatively impact Black youth.
Despite everything that Darius and Twig experience, these two young men manage to have a beautiful friendship that is heartwarming. No one is shaming each other for expressing their feelings due to some ridiculous need to “man-up”. No one is being a bad influence on each other. Instead, Darius and Twig encourage each other, joke around, and be honest with each other in order to bring out a better version of themselves.
While there was a lot I liked about this book, the only thing that bothered me was the lack of Black women or any women of color. Seeing only Darius’ depressed mom and Twig’s supportive yet barely there grandma made me wish there were more female figures in the boys’ lives, especially in Darius’ case. They didn’t necessarily have to be family, but a Black female mentor or role model would’ve been nice to see.
On the whole, Darius and Twig is an honest, contemplative book about living your dream. This book shows that standing out is worth fighting for, even if you struggle and feel out of place. True friendship can help you take the first step towards your personal goals despite people or circumstances trying to drag you down.