Written by Colleen Nelson
Reviewed from advance reading copy
"...just cuz we share blood, doesn't make us brothers." (pg. 208)
Brothers are born and brothers are made through commonalities in purpose and temperament. But does one kind of brotherhood surpass the other? How do you weigh what one brother means to you against another? These are the questions being asked throughout Colleen Nelson's new work of young adult fiction as two fifteen-year-old boys steer through life, amidst the poverty and violence of a tenuous world and one of apparent opportunity for better.
Jakub Kaminsky admits that he has a sad little life. His parents emigrated from Poland for a better life before his mother died giving birth to him. An injury at work left his devout father with a mangled leg and unable to work. Now the two live in a rooming house on the West Side and attend and volunteer at St. Mary's, the parish of Father Dominic. Jakub works hard at school and gets good grades, but he's truly alive when he's tagging as Morf.
Lincoln Bear may live with his mother and father and younger brother Dustin, for whom he tries to be an attentive big brother, but his home life is hardly comfortable, emotionally or financially. When 21-year-old brother Henry returns from eighteen months in prison and promptly reestablishes his connection to the Red Bloodz gang, Lincoln is pulled in, hopeful of reconnecting with his brother and making a better life for himself. But restoring that relationship entails Lincoln becoming involved in jacking cars for a chop shop the gang runs which leads to more dangerous and illegal activities.
Jakub knows Henry is using Lincoln but he has no defence when he himself is involved in illegal tagging, especially after Lincoln takes the fall when they are almost caught by the police. With Jakub starting as a bursary student at the prestigious St. Bart's school, and Lincoln falling deeper under the thumb of his violent brother, it becomes evident that the friendship between the two teens is at risk.
The survival of their friendship ends up being the least of their worries, though it is a driving force, when Lincoln becomes involved in a murder, and Jakub finds a very public but dangerous way of revealing the perpetrators. Blood Brothers culminates with a violent struggle between brothers of different kinds and very real consequences for all involved in desperate ventures.
"It's too late, I want to tell her. It's like when water gets sucked down a drain. Stuffing a finger in to stop it won't do any good. The water still slips away." (pg.161)Colleen Nelson leaves no time or breath of respite for the reader who is thrown from one harrowing situation to another, as both Jakub and Lincoln attempt to create lives that matter for themselves. Yet, with all the poor choices the two make–and there are many–they are guided by a desire to be part of something good whether it be family, friendship, church or school. They want to be persons of consequence, because of their art or their presence or their actions. They want what everyone wants: to matter. Whether that happens depends on where you start and where you go and all the steps you take in between. For Jakub and Lincoln, whose voices Colleen Nelson asserts both honestly and compassionately through those strides and missteps, it's their brotherhood that walks with them, leaving its own footprints.
Be sure to check out Dundurn's book trailer for Blood Brothers at https://youtu.be/k026kfO89L4.