I finished the book after being totally focused on the five days of pledging and the final night where the pledges were supposed to be welcomed into the Warriors with the black silk jackets. The pledge days were full of embarrassment, physical and verbal abuse and dangerous activities. I suspected that the initiation activities had changed since the boys' relatives and other adults around were members. But the clues were overlooked by Jericho, Josh, Kofi and Dana. I saw Dana as a strong character who wasn't going to let anyone bully her around. She was determined to pass all the tests that the boys were given. One Warrior took an interest in treating Dana worse than the boys. I questioned his mental stability. I know all the senior Warriors were treating the pledges like second class citizens, but Eddie seemed different.
The initiation process was all about hazing. I felt sorry for the kids that pledged because I don't think they understood hazing. They had such a need to feel a part of something bigger. They wanted their peers to look up to them. They were so determined to pass the tests because the Warriors told them if one failed they all did. Josh (Jericho's cousin) took on a leadership role with encouraging all the pledges to stick together and get through the week. Kofi had a heart murmur and put his life at risk. Jericho gave up an opportunity of a lifetime to compete for a scholarship to Julliard. He was discouraged by some of his teachers, and he didn't tell his parents he would miss the competition. He chose to pledge because if he missed that night, all the pledges would fail. Jericho had bad feelings all through the process. He even asked his girlfriend "can something seem like it's good, but really be something else?" (page105)
The book ended with the final night of the week. The kids were taken to an upstairs room in an old building, forced to drink liquor until they were drunk, then made to jump out the second floor window. They were told there would be cushioning to land on. This consisted of old mattresses covered with mud. These kids were treated just horribly.
Josh was the last one to jump. He had a good sense of humor throughout the story. This ended up causing him to lose his life. He pretended to fly and missed the padding he was to land on. His head hit a rock.
Because all the pledges were sworn to secrecy they didn't want to tell what happened when the emergency crews got there. Jericho's dad came quickly because he was an officer. Jericho told his dad everything.
The book ended with all the pledges regretting everything, the Warriors getting arrested, and the sponsor of the club as well.
Josh's father, who had been a warrior, found out what they were having to do and told them he only had to jump off a chair! It was a harmless initiation back in the day.
I think some parents would object to this book because of the various kinds of abuse. Also, Dana was a girl who wanted to be in the club. She was treated even more harshly by one of the Warriors. I will use this book to write a rationale for using it in a classroom.
My students could conduct I -searches hazing on the local level and around the country. They could even reflect on bullying when they were in their earlier educational years.
Another interesting aspect of the story was Jericho's trumpet playing. He could play different tunes according to his mood. He played the blues and improvised pieces. After the terrible events resulting in Josh's death he carried his talent up to the next level. Even though he missed the chance to compete for a scholarship all these experiences made him a better musician. The integration of music could be an interesting angle to explore in the classroom. Students could listen to different types of music and write in their writers notebooks according to how the music affects them.
Discussions could revolve around peer pressure, fitting in, accepting differences in people, standing up for yourself and your friends, death, social risk taking, and even messages that wearing particular clothing send.