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Book Review: Punching The Air by Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

 * I am reviewing this book which I was gifted for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. *

Title: Punching The Air
Author: Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam 
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: NetGalley

(Bookshop UKHive | Goodreads | Storygraph)

Book Summary:

The story that I thought
was my life
didn’t start on the day
I was born

Amal Shahid has always been an artist and a poet. But even in a diverse art school, he’s seen as disruptive and unmotivated by a biased system. Then one fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood escalates into tragedy. “Boys just being boys” turns out to be true only when those boys are white.

The story that I think
will be my life
starts today

Suddenly, at just sixteen years old, Amal’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it?

Book Review:

Although not widely recommended, based on a selected few recommendations of bloggers that I love, Punching The Air went straight to the top of my TBR. After reading it, it is no wonder why this is also widely loved, offering a true and stark look at the prison system for a young black man. 

Only having heard of the Exonerated Five through recent media, I did not have much experience with their case and this was also the first book that I have read from Ibi Zoboi. If you put these together, then you get a blogger who has limited expectations for the book, coupled with the hype online.

While I tend to read verse novels physically, I decided to give this a go via audiobook but I'm not sure that this was the best choice as I don't think that I was emotional invested as I normally would. Given the subject matter, I would have thought that I would be head over heels in love with it and the writing style, but this was not the case. 

Don't get me wrong, I didn't hate the book but by any means, I just wish that I loved it more than I did. There was still an occasion that I enjoyed Amal's character and his overall story. I thought that it was a very emotional and intense journey and I was still invested in the plot and his well-being. 

A massive part of any verse novels, in of course the writing and I did really love the story and there were some really memorable lines and it really gave weight to the overall story. The illustrations were also great and again did add to the story. 

While I did not love the story as much as other people, I would still love to reread it in the future to see if I like it more. Physically this time. 

The Verdict:

Blending poetry and a love for art, Punching The Air is a raw and captivating look at the realities of the American prison system for a Black American teenager.

Have you read Punching The Air? If so, what did you think? Do you want to? Let me know in the comments.


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