Anger is a Gift Opens Society’s Eyes

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Warning: this book is not for the faint of heart. It’s important, however, because it highlights issues that society wants to sweep under the rug. Anger Is A Gift is an action-packed thriller, romance novel, and humorous comic rolled up into a great read–if you’re okay with crying.

Morris (Moss) Jeffries is an average high school student, with respect to grades and chilling on Saturdays with nothing to do, but there are a few things that set him apart. For one thing, his school is falling apart, figuratively and literally, it turns out, the police in the city have been corrupt for so long the citizens of Oakland are numb to their abuse. There is a silver lining is Moss’ life: his friends and his mother.

The characters are very diverse, more than any other book I’ve ever read, yet the author makes everything feel natural rather than forced. There’s almost every sexuality, gender identity, and race in this book. This makes the story feel more realistic while also making it more interesting because everyone is unique. For example, Bits is non-binary and also relatable from years of abuse, Njemile is a lesbian and the most entertaining character with a spunky personality, and even the protagonist is gay.  It’s refreshing to see characters that aren’t seen in books as often but have an author not constantly talk about Moss’s sexuality or Bits’ gender identity or make it a big deal: big box office studios, take note.

The main conflict in this book is the abusive police force and the voluntarily ignorant society. At the beginning, a police officer, meant to protect the students, attacks a student from false pretenses. This sparks a severe backlash against the student body, not the police officer, so metal detectors and quadruple the amount of police officers are put into place. A chain of events follows this and leads to a significant death, one of the few things that brought tears to my eyes. It’s wrapped up with civil disobedience and protests that are bittersweet for the characters.

I do have a few bones to pick with this book, however. There were moments in the plot where it seemed rushed to the point where I needed to reread parts to fully understand what’s going on. Sometimes that would be fitting because the scene would be purposefully chaotic but sometimes it felt unnecessary. Some questions that popped up for me were “Why did that police officer have a sudden change of heart when at the moment, he didn’t hesitate?” and “Why exactly did no adult in the building try to stop it from happening?”

Despite my unanswered questions, this was fantastic overall. The main characters were likable, the plot was logical and kept me on the edge of my seat, and it even brought tears to my eyes. It provides realistic commentary on the state of ignorance not only in America but everywhere on Earth.

Other books such as this include the aptly named Police Brutality: An Analogy by Jill Nelson and Colorblind: A Story of Racism by Johnathan Harris. Similar titles in our own library include The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely.

By exposing our own communities to the reality of police brutality, possibly more victims can receive justice without being ridiculed simply for resisting harm that may otherwise be overlooked.