Book Review: The Day Tajon Got Shot (Teen Writers of Beacon House)
Reviewed by Amelia Cotter
The Day Tajon Got Shot in an impactful story about an instance of racial injustice and police brutality that is like many events seen in the news today. The book is written by ten teenage girls to share their stance on modern-day racial prejudice. The book focuses on the drama that follows a police shooting of a sixteen-year-old black boy named Tajon. It vividly depicts how the community responded to the loss through violence and protest.
The authors open with a poem written by poet Camisha Jones. She writes to describe the situation unfolding at the scene of the crime:
…The cop held his fear
This poem creates a solemn feeling in the reader, as the authors prepare to tell their story of the same situation. The characters are then introduced and described, including Tajon, his family, his best friend, and the cop. The chapters are narrated by the various characters, and show the different perspectives, and how they are affected individually. The difference in point of view also provides a change of tone and language to help portray the character.
The story begins being told by Tajon, as he reluctantly delivers weed to Bobby, a drug dealer, to earn money for his struggling family. A policeman spots them, and Tajon instinctively runs. The cop chases him, and fires. The following chapters tell how Tajon's family reacts, and how the children of the cop are affected.
The city erupts in protest, demanding justice. Tajon's sister Tasha advocates for him, putting up poster all over the school and joining Black Lives Matter protests, to her mother's objection. Her father is there too, but becomes violent, and is taken by the police. The children of the cop, Zach and Ashley's lives change completely. When the video is first released, they watch, praying that the one with the gun is not their father. When they know the truth, Zach, a friend of Tajon's is disgusted, but Ashley sides with their dad. Ashley confides in her best friend Angel, who breaks her promise of secrecy by posting on twitter, that it was Ashley's father who shot Tajon. Ashley is bullied and ostracized at school, then attacked by her basketball teammates in the school bathroom. Tajon's best friend Kayla struggles with her anger, which worsens with the situation, so she joins the riots to let it out. She sees herself on the television, yelling and smashing windows, and realizes that she needs to change: "They showed a video of a girl breaking down store windows and letting anybody go in and take what they wanted. My smile faded. The video zoomed in and I realized that girl was me." Kayla eventually starts karate and anger management classes to help with her rage. The characters separate stories are told, furthering the plot, in which every point of view is angry. Tajon's mom however is against the protest and believes that violence will just make matters worse. They all deal with the trauma is different ways.
In the end, the authors have a piece from each character, giving their thoughts on the situation, and pictures of signs and newspapers from the event. Additionally, they include a their own personal thoughts on the story, as well of a list of people of color shot by the police during the time they were writing the book. The author's write "It was really upsetting to see that many names. All those people were somebody's children, or brothers or sisters, or friends." This piece was especially moving, as it shows just how big of an issue this subject is, and how commonly an event like this will take place.
The authors use a large amount of photos, artwork, and poems to emphasize the plot. The posters are moving, in showing that real teenagers created them and were affected firsthand. The Day Tajon Got Shot is a thought-provoking book that describes how important the issue of police brutality is, and that it has devastating effects on a family. I thought that it was helpful to include the cop's family, because it shows that not just the victims family is torn apart. The story is very well told, and considers the well-being of everyone close to Tajon and the policeman.
I would recommend this book for someone around the age of middle school, especially one with an interest in current issues in our country, especially the Black Lives Matter movement. The authors created the situation vividly and accurately described, while leaving out the gruesome details. It gives a good sense of what is happening in the country for a curious reader. Young teens that don't know much except for what they hear will be provided a good example and feel for the controversy. As a teen, it is great to see that other young people are involved, and have strong, developed perspectives on current issues. Teens all over the country would enjoy reading this. For someone who doesn't live near Washington, D.C., where the shootings in the story take place, it is interesting to see what is happening in another part of the nation. It is important for a young person to be aware, and informed about the injustice, so that they can form their own opinions.
The authors struggled with deciding the resolution of the story, and Tajon's fate. The girls were torn between creating a hopeful feeling in the reader, or showing how serious and awful the current situation is. One can understand the conflict in deciding whether to portray an event in a hopeful light, or giving the unfortunate reality. Find out if Tajon's story ends happily or in heartbreak by reading The Day Tajon Got Shot.
Title: The Day Tajon Got Shot