Daily Bookmark: Red Hook teacher pens YA novel about staying soft in a hard world

Growing up in the Red Hook projects, writer and middle school teacher Torrey Maldonado hated “boring books that seemed to dismiss him and where he was from.” Lucky for the students in his classes and for his audience of young readers, Maldonado did eventually develop a love for reading — through books that were NOT boring, and which reflected the culture he saw in his daily life. Now Maldonado seeks to write more of the same for kids like him, and he seems to have pulled it off with his latest novel, “Tight,” on sale now from Penguin. 

Bryan is a good kid growing up in Brooklyn, perfectly happy to pass the time reading his comics and drawing superheroes. When he’s befriended by a charming but reckless boy named Mike, Bryan starts jumping turnstiles, subway surfing and getting into trouble. Bryan knows he’s making mistakes, but the pressure to fit in with is new friend is enormous, and his own father taught him “it’s better to be hard and feared than to be liked.” 

It’s a dilemma Maldonado says was inspired by the lives of his students, and by his own experiences growing up in South Brooklyn. To stay true to himself, Bryan will have to dig deep and uncover his own super powers. 

Torrey Maldonado is the author of the 2010 YA novel “Secret Saturdays.” He teaches at M.S. 88 in Park Slope. The paperback version of “Tight” is out Aug. 27. 

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