Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Day Sonny Died


I received a copy of this book from M. Simone Boyd, without expectation of a review of any kind. All thoughts are my own.

Rating: 5 Stars

Whew. Be patient with me, this is a tough one. For many reasons.

I came across this book because of Remembrancy, a blog I became familiar with due to our participation in First Line Friday hosted by Hoarding Books. The book summary really resonated with me because of my job, and due to my interest I was offered a copy by the author, M. Simone Boyd (who actually co-authored the book with her father). For those who do not know, I am a Special Education teacher at a Title 1 school in a fairly tough part of the city. Specifically, I teach in a behavior classroom, so all of my students are diagnosed with emotional disturbances/ADHD/ODD/SLD, and a whole slew of other acronyms that you don't really need to know in order to understand that my job is hard. And I mean, HARD. Every day I am asked to perform miracles and a lot of times I fail. I love my job and I love my students, many of whom could relate to Sonny, and who some I fear will BECOME him. I have to look into the eyes of these babies (who are not really babies, they are third, fourth, and fifth graders) and prepare them for a world that will not always understand them or be kind to them, or give them chance after chance after chance. I have to make them understand why we have to get the anger under control, why we have to learn to count to 10, to walk away, to breathe deep, to not argue in the 'wrong way' even when something is unfair and their anger is justified. On top of that, I also have to teach all my students reading, math, writing, social studies and science. They run the spectrum of reading levels, from Kindergarten to 5th grade, despite them all physically being 3rd/4th/5th graders. I have students who have never left the state, or even the city, students with no life experience except what it is like to take a food bag home on the weekends just to have enough to eat until Monday, or to sleep on the floor after the windows getting shot out one night. Not every student I teach survives in a world that bleak, but even the fact that one or two do should be cause for concern. One little heart hardening over situations like this should make people angry, make them stand up and say enough is enough, we are destroying our future.

Okay, so I think we can agree that this book definitely struck a nerve, right? Right.

It is not a secret that Sonny, this character who seemed to me to be a mash-up composite of so many of my students from the last six years, will die in this book. You don't know when it will happen or how, but it is a forgone conclusion that at some point, it will happen. We get to see in snippets the lives of Sonny's parents before he is born and we get to see the tragedy play out when Sonny is three and his father is murdered in front of him. It is a hard thing to read, to know that slowly but surely everyone who cared about Sonny is taken away. It makes sense in such a heartbreaking way that Sonny too, will not escape this cycle and is doomed to fall victim to the same thing that happened to his father, grandfather, great-grandfather, and on and on. Throughout the book I found myself wanting to reach through the pages, grab this kid by the shoulders and give him a good shake. I wanted him to escape and to have the life that deep down he knew he was missing out on. There is an especially poignant scene for me when Sonny comes across a photo of himself at his 3rd birthday, with his mom and his dad. It is not a terribly elaborate scene, but if you really connect with the story, it will really stand out to you. His life could have been so different had so many situations gone the other way, but there is also a point where Sonny also has to take responsibility for his choices himself as he gets older. Throughout his time on earth, he was given the opportunity to grab on to hope, but he never took it. He didn't take those chances given to him and in the end, and I mean The. End., he was shown the error of his ways. I don't want to say too much more about that because I don't want to give away anything that you need to discover for yourself in reading this book. While it is filled with tragedy and heartache, the ultimate message is one of hope. I know it does not make sense based on literally everything else I have just written about but you will see it when you read this one for yourself, and I hope that you do.

Despite having my own plate full with research, reading, writing, and raising a small human, I plowed through this book in just a couple of days. Something in the story called to me, this connection I made between the book and my kiddos, and I had to see it through, as soon as possible. The ultimate story here is of God's love for us and the options He presents to us so we can live out our purpose - which because of our free will, we can choose to accept or reject. Sonny used his free will to reject that love, though I don't actually think he fully understood what he was rejecting. On the other hand, he had so many opportunities, and he chose not to act.

In the end, I highly recommend this one. When and if you get the chance to read it, I would love to know your thoughts.


  1. Wow. You have one tough and very respectable job! And you must have a golden patience. I bet I would not be able to manage something like that. You're awesome! And what a strong review! Loved it.

    1. Thank you so much Evelina. I do love my students and my job, but it is also hard and heartbreaking and frustrating. I do admit that I lose my patience sometimes, but sometimes I just have to yell right along with my students.


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