The Scorpions are a gun-toting Harlem gang, and Jamal Hicks is about to become tragically involved with them in this authentic tale of the sacrifice of innocence in the inner city. Pushed by the bully, Dwayne, to fight, and nagged by the principal, Mr. Davidson, Jamal is having a difficult time staying in school. His home life is not much better, with his mother working her fingers to the bone to try to earn the money for an appeal for Jamal's older brother, Randy, who is in jail. The leader of the Scorpions, Randy wants Jamal to take his place until he is free, but the other gang members, especially Angel and Indian, don't like the idea. Only Mack thinks Jamal should be the leader, and it is Mack who gets Jamal a gun.
Jamal wants to do the right thing and earn the money to free his brother by working, but he is afraid to go against the Scorpions. He longs to get rid of the gun, but part of him just can't bring himself to do it. As things heat up within the gang, everything comes to a boil when Mack kills Angel and Indian is thrown in jail. Jamal eventually pulls free of the gang's bad influence, but only through the narrowest of escapes.
Five-time winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, Walter Dean Myers has written a chillingly real depiction of the inverted values of poverty-stricken teens. The relationship between Jamal and Tito sensitively explores the loyalty and love between best friends faced with some hard choices. This Newberry Honor Book will challenge young men to consider their own decisions as they come of age in a complex and often frustrating society.