Thursday, December 12, 2019

REVIEW: Hands Up by Stephen Clark

Title: Hands Up
Author: Stephen Clark
Genre: Adult Crime Fiction
Publisher: WiDo Publishing
Release Date: September 28, 2019
Acquired: Hardcopy sent for review
Goodreads: ADD

Officer Ryan Quinn, a rookie raised in a family of cops, is on the fast track to detective until he shoots an unarmed black male. Now, with his career, reputation and freedom on the line, he embarks on a quest for redemption that forces him to confront his fears and biases and choose between conscience or silence.

Jade Wakefield is an emotionally damaged college student living in one of Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods. She knows the chances of getting an indictment against the cop who killed her brother are slim. When she learns there’s more to the story than the official police account, Jade is determined, even desperate, to find out what really happened. She plans to get revenge by any means necessary.

Kelly Randolph, who returns to Philadelphia broke and broken after abandoning his family ten years earlier, seeks forgiveness while mourning the death of his son. But after he’s thrust into the spotlight as the face of the protest movement, his disavowed criminal past resurfaces and threatens to derail the family’s pursuit of justice.

Ryan, Jade, and Kelly--three people from different worlds—are on a collision course after the shooting, as their lives interconnect and then spiral into chaos.

Hands Up is about the (unfortunate) realistic scenario of racial profiling by a white cop, and the even more unfortunate outcome of that profiling: an innocent black male getting shot to death. Told through three alternating perspectives, we hear from Jade, the victims' older sister, Kelly, his estranged father, and Ryan, the officer that shot him. Together they attempt to paint a larger picture, one steeped in misplaced justice and forced forgiveness.

There is a desperate need for important books right now. There is a gaping void that needs to be filled with literature, both fiction and non-fiction, and with videos, and movies, and television shows, and news reports, and emails, and texts, and damnit actual human beings standing on their roofs SHOUTING about the injustices that our species is enduring. But most importantly the injustices of young black youth, of black men, and of the black community as a whole. There is a desperate need for people with the means to contribute their voices on this matter to use those means. To use them and use them until it helps the next person do the same. Stephen Clark used his means, as a writer, to create a social commentary in Hands Up. He shed light on a topic that should be breaking down doors with its force, but sadly still feels as though it falls on deaf ears. I applaud Stephen for writing this book, but as my star ratings have first and foremost always represented my concluding opinion on writing style (based on genre) as opposed to subject matter, I couldn't grant it the 5-stars that my justice-seeking heart would have given it had it come to me as a news report or a documentary.

Stephen Clark wrote like a true journalist, in the sense that telling was favoured heavily over showing: 

"As pallbearers carried the casket to the burial site, Kelly and Regina held hands. As his son's casket was interred, Kelly cried and let out a scream. Regina laid her body his coffin and wept".

The entire novel read like a 290-page report, and sadly both characters and storyline suffered for it. I also took issue with the many descriptive and stereotypical ways in which a certain gender was described or represented. There was even some fat-shaming on two occasions whilst describing or referring to Jade's best friend. Hands Up would have benefitted from remaining a depiction of racial profiling and its sometimes tragic consequences, as opposed to attempting to highlight other triggering areas such as self-harm or sexual abuse, which I found to be handled quite poorly by secondary characters. 

I really appreciate that Hands Up can be now be counted among the too-few books out there surrounding this topic, but further research was definitely needed in order to turn this into something truly spectacular. More emotion, more sensitivity, and a more genuine delve into the psyche of those who were suffering was needed to make this a true winner for me.

Trigger Warnings:
racial slurs, self-harm, sexual abuse

Read if you like:  
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Key themes: 
racial profiling, racism, injustice, black lives matter activism



Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of nonprofit services.

He also won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting at the Stamford Advocate for his series exposing an elderly grifter’s charity organization. Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

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1 comment:

  1. The author's writing style was also easy to read and set the right pace for how the story should flow as you read it. I would not hesitate in recommending this book to everyone!


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