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Imagine having to live across the country from your siblings after losing your mother and being forced to live with a strict aunt. Now imagine that you are half African American and half Caucasian. The story of Richard Allen Duffy III --- also known as Grey and Air depending on when you meet him --- is the inspirational story of a group of teenage African American boys who set out to show the world that they are fed up with being looked past and treated horribly by those who view them as lower beings.

"By blurring the lines between reality and fiction, Ryan Gattis creates a riveting plotline that has the readers thinking deeply at the end of it all."

Beginning with a different form of our current Black Lives Matter protests, Grey and his new Baltimore friends take to the streets with bikes and death-defying stunts that captivate their audience’s attention while also sending a message to the Baltimore police who have been the source of many unnecessary deaths. By blurring the lines between reality and fiction, Ryan Gattis creates a riveting plotline that has the readers thinking deeply at the end of it all.

AIR was honestly very difficult for me to enjoy reading at the beginning. I’m not sure if it’s because I was stressed out by school and couldn’t focus on the text in front of me or if it just didn’t have enough to hold my attention; however, after reading about 50 pages I was completely engrossed in the book. Gattis manages to create a character who is completely realistic and made me feel as though I personally knew Grey. This allowed me to feel his raw emotions so much stronger and helped me make the connection between his life and my own, while also translating Gattis’s message.

Grey’s character development throughout the novel was also written very well and naturally and I enjoyed going through all of his struggles with him. I don’t know a thing about BMX or extreme sports but this novel really did make me feel the thrill of the activities as Grey participated in them. Other good qualities of the novel include a thorough exposition that sets the rest of the plot up very well and the character development of the side characters, as well. Watching the other characters grow alongside Grey makes AIR all the more realistic. I also really enjoyed how Ryan Gattis incorporated so many different kinds of sentence structures in order to emphasize a certain point or create a specific mood/tone that really completes the entire story.

The only thing I didn’t really like all too much was the beginning. It was a bit too slow for my liking and even though I understand that it was there mainly to provide a background story for our main character and establish the reason why he does the stuff he does in the book; however, I feel like if Gattis had perhaps extended the first chapter or highlighted the more exciting parts of Grey’s life before moving on to the other information, it may have helped capture an audience’s attention better.

Overall, AIR was a surprisingly good read that makes me look forward to researching a bit more on the rest of Ryan Gattis’s novels and I would recommend this book to any readers who enjoy realistic fiction novels and those that are interested in the Black Lives Matter issue.

Reviewed by Alyssa L., Teen Board Member on January 24, 2017

by Ryan Gattis