Summary: A poignant coming-of-age story about two boys finding their way in the South Bronx in the mid-1980s.
The summer of 1983 was the summer hip-hop proved its staying power. The South Bronx is steeped in Reaganomics, war in the Middle East, and the twin epidemics of crack and AIDS, but Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega have more immediate concerns.
Smiles was supposed to be the assistant crew chief at his summer camp, but the director chose Cookie Camacho instead, kicking off a summer-long rivalry. Meanwhile, the aspiring b-boy Nike has set his wandering eye on Sara, the sweet yet sassy new camp counselor, as well as top prize at a breakdancing competition downtown. The two friends have been drifting apart ever since Smiles got a scholarship to a fancy private school, and this summer the air is heavy with postponed decisions that will finally be made.
Raw and poignant, this is a story of music, urban plight, and racial tension that’s as relevant today as it was in 1983. — Cover image and summary via Goodreads
My Thoughts: Earlier this year Lyn Miller-Lachmann recommended Show and Prove. She spoke so highly of the book, I knew it was a must read. It did not disappoint.
Show and Prove allows readers to experience a summer in The South Bronx through the eyes of two young men learning about who they are and what matters most to them. The voices and personalities are distinct and Quintero’s characters have depth.
Smiles has that nickname because he is generally upbeat. He’s an idea man. Over the years he’s poured time, effort, and thought into the summer camp. He sees possibilities. That’s why he feels like he’s been kicked in the gut when Cookie is chosen to be the assistant instead of him.
Nike has an eye for the ladies and works on his break dancing moves to relax. Nike works, but mostly to buy the name brand clothing he loves. He feels trapped by his circumstances and doesn’t know what he can do to escape.
The young men have been friends for years, but have hit a rough patch. This summer is a transition for their friendship.
There is romance here for sure. Nike falls hard. I enjoy the words he used to describe the conversations with his love interest. She, “…asks me questions, and I have to think before I answer, not because she’s testing me and I’m trying to be fly, but more like we’re both digging into each other for treasure.” The romance is a major issue for Nike, but I it’s not the only issue. I appreciated that this is a well-rounded story going beyond that one aspect of his summer. Nike’s family life and friendship with Smiles also have weight along with the racial issues that each face.
I was sucked into the daily lives of Smiles and Nike and wanted the story to continue. I would certainly read another book with this crew.
Recommendation: Get it soon. This is a wonderful coming-of-age story with engaging characters and an intriguing storyline.