Author: B.A. Binns
Format: Book (hardcover from library)
Genre: Contemporary YA
Synopsis: High school senior David Albacore is dealing with major upheaval after his father murders his mom. In the terrible aftermath, he changes his name and moves to a tough new inner-city Chicago high school with his younger sister Barney, when they and their now silent younger sister, Linda, move in with their aunt. David blames himself for not saving their mom that night; after being injured in a basketball game in which he was the star, David was given strong painkillers, which caused him to sleep through the shooting. Barney, who found their mom's body, is fragile after a hospital stay and is barely able to cope. With their mother gone and their father in jail, David tries to take care of his sisters as they grieve and adjust to a different kind of life. When he's forced to join the basketball team or be expelled after getting in too many fights, it cuts into his after-school construction job that he takes to help his aunt support his family. Then David begins falling for Yolanda, the hottest girl in school and Perry, the school player and bully's girlfriend. They flirt and spar, but going after this fashion loving Mighty Mite spells big trouble for David. And as he ponders trying for a basketball scholarship or keeping the construction job he loves, Aunt Edie's stroke eliminates most of David's options. He can keep his family together by working construction full time, or follow his mom's dream of college, which would probably send Barney into foster care. Teen readers will hold their breath as David weighs his options about the kind of life he wants to live. (Summary from Amazon.)
This is a book I picked up on a whim from the library. I nearly put it back because I have WAY too many library books checked out but when I decided to check something else out I thought, well, since I'm already getting this one might as well get that one. So I put took Pull back into my arms. That night I opened the book on a whim and skimmed the first chapter. Then I couldn't put it down. I was completely sucked into David's story and I had to find out what was going to happen next.
David Albacore is a strong character. His voice rings true through the pages. His thoughts, his words and his actions were completely believable from what I knew about him. I really heard the thoughts of a 17 year old guy on the page and not just any guy. This is a guy who has been through some tough things in his life, who has a lot of different experiences and has the intelligence and determination to make things happen in his life. I was really impressed by the voice of the novel. I've read a lot of "boy" books and this was one of the most authentic voices I've read. Binns does a fine job getting us inside of David's head and bringing him alive on the page. I was right there in David's world, in the middle of his problems were there are no easy choices.
The best part about this book is how real the characters are. Everyone had flaws. David is not a perfect guy. He makes stupid choices. He goes back on his word. He's obsessed with objectifying his crush and thinking about how much he wants to have sex with her. He goes back on his word. He can be cocky, crass and downright rude and mean to people. But this all goes into showing the type of guy that David is. And there's this other side to David. He'll literally do anything for his little sister (including pretending to be her boyfriend!) while still having those moments where he can't stand her. He's very accepting of the fact that his new friend is gay. He recognizes his own potential and the potential in others. There are many different sides to David and often times his desire to do the right things is wrestling with the side of him that wants to do whatever will feel best right now. The books does a great job depicting these constant internal struggles and how it affects David's life. It's just another example of how real David is as a character.
The other characters in the book are also multifaceted. David's younger sister, Barney, can be very annoying, demanding and naive but David always manages to remember that she is a young, fragile teenager. The object of David's huge crush, Yolanda, is quite unlikable in several scenes but she manages to have a redemption story all her own. Kasili is the basketball coach and guidance coach who's not afraid to exert his power over David but is also encouraging and well-meaning. There's only one character without any redeeming qualities. In fact, he is so awful that I was a bit disappointed to never find out another side of him since all the other characters are so layered. I was really impressed with Binn's willingness to write David just as selfish as he was selfless with his life. There are certain things David wants that will not mesh with the way he has to live his life. But he never stops wanting them. I think that was the most realistic part of the novel.
Pull is a book that will pull you through from beginning to end as David is pulled from every direction--school, basketball, work, family--until he ultimately finds the solution that he chooses for himself. The last part of the book is a tumble of bad circumstances, hasty decisions and changing minds that makes the ending particularly fast-paced. The beginning focuses on David's new life and his crush/obsession with Yolanda, which can drag in a couple of parts, but really clicks in the middle. It's definitely a novel for mature older readers. A couple of parts made me cringe but nothing was over-the-top or unrealistic. Binns does a terrific job exploring survivor's guilt and abusive relationships. We experience though David's eyes and while he doesn't always get everything entirely right he does have unique and important insights.
Pull tells the story of teenagers who have to make adult choices too young. It's never easy but it still has to happen. I recommend this novel to anyone who wants to read a different kind of voice and a different kind of life where triumph does come from tragedy but not entirely in the way you would expect. David's story is important and if you're willing to take a chance on him you should definitely pick up this book.