From the very first sentence to the very last one, this book had me glued to the pages. The characters came to life and I could not wait to find out how a petite nurse named April O'Rielly was going to deal with a ghost known as the Red-headed Stranger.
It all started with sixty-year-old Ruth Woodman who not spoken a word in nearly twenty years since her son had died. Her silence was broken the day she and April saw the ghost who had been haunting the city of Oakwood. This was no average haunting, however. This ghost was better than Casper the friendly ghost; he was helping the police department defend the city against gang activity.
With a righteous reward for his death, Officer Brandon James had to defend himself and his boys from the retaliation of the gangs who had infiltrated the local high school. Good thing he met April O'Rielly. Not only was she lovely to look at, she and her sons were a lifesaver when it came to helping Brandon solve his criminal case.
What is this NEW gang coming on the scene? And, who is in it? Tommy, the other Tommy, Joe, Michael, Bryan, and Pudge as well as their new recruits. Surely the sons of April and Brandon are not involved in a gang! But, this is a special gang--one with a constitution and bylaws that does not believe in violence--a gang that works for the good of the community. A gang based on positive attributes instead of negative ones. Can this gang save the city of Oakwood? Only with the help of the Red-headed Stranger!
The book tracks a fabulous love story that unfolds among Brandon and April. There is also a "sleepover" in a warehouse with two gang members who are in love. The book safely touches the "hot" button without encouraging anyone to get burned. The story comes full circle as Ruth is reunited with her son.
Tim Stewart is one of those authors everyone will love. His kind personality comes through in his writing. Each character is developed with true-to-life persona. Each is cast in a believable role with slang dialog current to today's teenager, yet Stewart gets the point across without using "gutter" language. This may be especially appreciated by law enforcement officers, drug task force members, parents and others who are trying to rid our culture of gangster behavior. He offers a substitute--an alternative to being involved in violence and drugs. A teenage boy gets to the root of the problem by issuing a plea to parents to stay involved in the lives of their children. "By keeping the sports programs active; by keeping extracurricular activities available; by showing each other--staff, parents and students--that you care. Kids get involved in gangs because they want to belong to something. If we offer our students a place to belong they won't turn to gangs looking for acceptance."
The story is filled with humor. How can you not have humor when you have two generations and two families living under one roof while trying to understand one another? There are realistic clashes between parents and teens, sass and respect, with a dose of overall good reading. I highly recommend this book, not only to teens who love to read and parents who enjoy knowing what their kids are reading, but to those who work with troubled teens and to the teens already involved in gangs, who want a safe way to make an exit from an errant path.
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