Title: Anger Is a Gift
Author: Mark Oshiro
Publisher: Tor Teen
Length: 464 Pages
Category: Teen Fiction, Literary Fiction
At a Glance: This novel is timely, it’s political, it’s socially aware, and it’s an important read.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Moss Jeffries is many things—considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.
But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else—someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.
And most of all, he wishes he didn’t feel so stuck.
Moss can’t even escape at school—he and his friends are subject to the lack of funds and crumbling infrastructure at West Oakland High, as well as constant intimidation by the resource officer stationed in their halls. That was even before the new regulations—it seems sometimes that the students are treated more like criminals.
Something will have to change—but who will listen to a group of teens?
When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes again, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.
Review: Mark Oshiro’s Anger Is a Gift is Moss Jeffries’ story. Moss is sixteen-years-old, a junior in high school, an incredible young man who has such a special bond with his mom, a diverse group of friends, and this is the story of how anger helped him to find his voice. This is a story about systemic racism, discrimination and the absolute, unchecked abuse of power. It’s also a story about tone-deafness and cognitive dissonance and the complacency which allows for the perpetuation of those abuses. It’s a story that should make everyone who reads it—across races, ethnicities, sexualities, religions, or genders—angry. Why? Because for so many, Moss’s story is not fiction. His story reads like it should be a dystopian novel set in an alternate US. Instead, it is his and so many others’ daily reality.
Anger Is a Gift is a story populated by a cast of characters who are made suspect by the establishment by virtue of their diversity. This is a story of the criminalization of a community by those in positions of power for not being white enough, straight enough, cis enough, wealthy enough; of a school full of teenagers being stripped of the opportunity to learn while being treated to the abuse of power within the walls of a crumbling institution; of those same kids who want to learn but are being robbed of the opportunity to do so through the misappropriation of funding and resources, perpetuating a cycle of disadvantage and creating a toxic environment in what should be a safe space.
Anger Is a Gift is a story of the ways in which the media is wont to slant and sanitize the news. How the mainstream media tends to focus on the outcome of a story rather than getting to the root cause of the issues that affect Moss and his friends, and thus, the media misses the point time and time again—they focus on the tea in the harbor rather than why people were so enraged that they were compelled to throw it there in the first place. This is the story of the fight against the dissemination of disinformation and the twisting of the truth to fit a biased narrative, and this book made me angry not because it speaks the truth but because these truths exist at all.
Anger Is a Gift is not a feel-good story, so don’t go into it expected a trite and tidy happy ending. This is an ongoing battle for freedom and equality. Anger Is a Gift is a statement book, and it’s imperative to focus on its message. Mark Oshiro doesn’t sugarcoat the narrative to make this a comfortable read, it does not absolve the ‘not me’ crowd, because to say ‘not me’ means one has already missed the message. He has taken current events in a ripped from the headlines way and crafted a brutally honest story of a young man’s emotional and psychological struggle after his father’s murder, his roiling anger after the murder of his boyfriend—who died in Moss’s arms—and into the fight against a machine that keeps grinding away at and punishing those who dare to call it unjust.
It is a story of attempting to grab hold of the tiniest shred of empowerment in the face of impossible odds. It amplifies the voices of the marginalized and reminds its readers that a little civil disobedience is sometimes necessary, because injustice will do nothing but thrive in apathy and complacency and reticence. It’s a story about a young man and his friends and neighbors being mad as hell and not taking it anymore, and that’s Moss’s breaking point—being angry and feeling helpless and impotent against the system. This novel is timely, it’s political, it’s socially aware, and it’s an important read.
You can buy Anger Is a Gift here:
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