Book Review-Tex and the Gangs of Suburbia by Stuart West

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Tex and The Gangs of Suburbia

I try not to think about my high school years all that often. They just weren’t the best years for me. Oh, they weren’t the worst. They weren’t anything like Tex’s high school years. But I think most of us, unless we happened to be the smartest or the coolest or the strongest or the prettiest, had some bad memories of high school. After all, you don’t really and truly know who you are at that age. You’re on a journey of self-discovery (and doesn’t that sound cliché). You make a lot of mistakes, do a lot of stupid things, and have to go through a lot of emotional experiences that you don’t always know how to handle.

In my last review of a Tex book, Tex the Witch Boy, I called the book a “bitter pill” book. These books are books that will make you think and not about happy things. But they are books that have strong, positive, important lessons to teach. I feel fortunate that despite not being one of the “cool kids” in school, I didn’t have to deal with bullying. Tex not only gets bullied from other kids at his school, but he has to deal with it from the Vice Principal as well (among other adults in the book). That’s more than one kid should ever have to deal with.

In the first book, Tex has to deal with the knowledge that he is, amazingly, a witch. Not a wizard, but a witch. Geez. Can a boy catch a break? He’s not only unpopular, he has to be a witch too? But he’s dealing with it. He has a few close friends, fellow misfits, and he’s really a pretty good kid under it all. Unfortunately, given his friends, his family, his history, and his personality, he’s got a huge target on his back.

We find Tex in his junior year this time. He’s been dumped by his girlfriend (Olivia from the first book…I LOVE her as a character) and he’s now dealing with two rival gangs in his small suburban town.

Unlike a lot of other books with a main character surrounded by an ensemble cast, Stuart R. West does a great job of really developing each member of the supporting cast. I loved Elspeth in particular. Her spirit just really called to me, even more than Olivia (and that’s saying something).

But really, what makes the Tex books great is that they feel very real. Oh there’s plenty of witchcraft and spirits and fantastical happenings, but the meat of the book is Tex and how the bullying, school violence, and real life horrors affect him and his not-so-merry band. I did a little research on the author, read a few interviews, and I was horrified to learn that the bullying incidents that are included in these books were all based on actual events that happened to him and his friends. For that reason alone, I urge you to give these books a read. They may be sometimes difficult to read, but they teach valuable lessons about respect, human decency, how we adults can help our kids and how kids can survive their teenage years. If you have a teen who is struggling with bullying, read these books with them and talk about it. If you’re a teacher, read these books. You’ll learn a lot about the minds of your students and might just be able to prevent some of these horrors from happening.

Overall, another great, if sometimes difficult read. I’m looking forward to West’s third book, Tex and the God Squad.
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