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Reviewed by Pikasho Deka for Readers' Favorite
J. Scott Pyles' Curtis: Or One Night in Harlem follows the story of a young black man in 1991, in Harlem, New York, navigating life against the backdrop of the Rodney King case. Since he was a young boy, Curtis saw his foster mother, Eunice, sick and bedridden, leaving him with the responsibility to take care of himself and her on his own. Coerced by the neighborhood bully Jimmy, Curtis smuggles pharmaceutical drugs from his workplace to avoid being beaten up and has deep feelings for his high school crush, Ashley. But after he loses his job, things soon take a downward turn, and he finds himself at the mercy of Jimmy's nefarious schemes. With Eunice dead and Ashley missing, Curtis must find the courage to stand up for the ones he loves.
J. Scott Pyles tells a heartbreaking tale of a young man becoming the victim of his environment and circumstances. There is a lot of social commentary embedded in Pyles' narrative. In this tragic story, the author masterfully showcases the plight of young black men in America. Curtis offers readers an insightful look into the heart of life in Harlem in the early 1990s with a young protagonist who wishes for nothing more than to break the shackles in which life has bound him. The plot is unpredictable, and I could never guess what was coming next. Curtis and Eunice's relationship broke my heart, and so did the fate of Whispers. There is a certain ambiguity to the ending that makes the climax all the more impactful. All in all, I enjoyed the book and recommend it to readers who love stories highlighting relevant social issues.