Ambitious high school senior Efrain Rodriguez dreams of escaping the South Bronx for an Ivy League college like Harvard or Yale. But how is his family going to afford to pay for a prestigious university when Moms has to work insane hours to put food on the table as it is? And Efrain wouldn't dare ask that good-for-nothing father of his who has traded his family in for younger models. Left with few options, Efrain chooses to do something he never thought he would. He embarks on a double lifehonor student by day, drug peddler at nightconvinced that by temporarily capitulating to society's negative expectations of a boy like him, he can eventually defy them. Sofia Quintero makes a stunning debut writing for young adults with this gritty, complex, and real exploration of the life of an urban teen whose attempt to leave one world behind for a better one could cost him everything. From the Hardcover edition.
The curriculet is being added to your library
Chapter 1 - Imperative (adj.) Necessary, Pressing
What is the SAT test? Learn about this college entrance examination by reading this resource. (This annotation contains a link)
The reader has already heard several details about Efrain's college application process. What conclusions can the reader draw about him as a student?
There is no high school with that name in Queens but Pedro Albizu Campos is a real person. Learn about his life by scrolling through this link. (This annotation contains a link)
"Bochinche" means gossip.
Chapter 2 - Abet (v.) To Aid, Help, Encourage
Most of the words in Spanish can be understood in context. However, there are free tools on the Internet if you'd like more specific translations. (This annotation contains a link)
This chapter introduces the reader to the relationship between Efrain and his mother. Which of the following is not true about their relationship?
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Here, the reader begins to understand why Efrain's father does not live with him. As you keep reading, can you find other passages from this chapter which explain Efrain's living situtation?
Check out this video about conflict in literature. Tension in a text can certainly keep a reader interested. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 3 - Pertinacious (adj.) Stubbornly Persistent
What is the Ivy League and how competitive is admission to these colleges? Here's a link with the names of the Ivy League schools and admission statistics. (This annotation contains a link)
Mrs. Colfax, Efrain's guidance counselor, approaches college applications from a different point of view than a student. While this seems frustrating for Efrain, she likely has many reasons behind her advice. Why do you think she uses the little fish versus big fish analogy here? Also, why do you think Efrain says "but I ain't no fish"?
Chapter 4 - Validate (v.) To Confirm, Support, Corroborate
Senorita Polanco can be described as
FALN, which stands for Fuerzas Armadas de Liberacton National, was a Puerto Rican group that used military action to advocate for Puerto Rican independence.
What do Senorita Polanco's words illustrate about her understanding of Efrain's personality?
Chapter 5 - Pittance (n.) A Very Small Amount, Especially Relating To Money
Senioritis is a word used to describe the sudden lack of motivation that some students feel when their final year of high school begins. These students feel distracted by social events and daydream of leaving for college or a career.
Place yourself in Efrain's "shoes" in this situation. Would you have the discipline to stay and complete your work or would you be tempted to join your friends at the movie? Consider what this decision illustrates about Efrain's character.
Chapter 6 - Officious (adj.) Offering One’s Services When Neither Wanted Nor Needed
Writers often use similies (comparisons using like or as) to highlight descriptions in a novel. There are three similes on this page (about her skin, teeth, and eyes) which help the reader envision Candace, a new character in the story.
Hurricane Katrina caused significant damage in New Orleans, Louisiana and surrounding areas in late August 2005. Many residents of the city were displaced when their homes were ruined.
What does this last line mean? How does it help the reader gain a deeper understanding of Efrain's emotions and motivations?
Chapter 7 - Insidious (adj.) Appealing But Imperceptibly Harmful, Seductive
Have you been paying attention to the words which serve as titles to each chapter? This "title" is particularly interesting. As you read, continue to consider the word in the context of the chapter which follows.
What is Nestor proposing to Efrain?
This is the first time the reader sees Rubio, Efrain's father. What are your first impressions? Additionally, how are your impressions guided by the use of first person narration?
Chapter 8 - Aberration (n.) Something that Differs from the Norm
Thinking about the theme as you read is a practice of an active reader. This video might help you as you learn this skill. (This annotation contains a video)
Here, Efrain's mom has revealed one of the central themes of the novel. As you continue reading, keep in mind her sage words.
Pre-teens and teens sometimes resist advice from parents and older loved ones. However, their age-old wisdom is generally very useful. Write three or four sentences about advice which you received that, while hard to hear, proved true in practice?
After considering this conversation between Efrain and his sister, Mandy, what can we conclude about their different approaches to keeping in touch with their father?
Chapter 9 - Rancor (n.) Deep, Bitter Resentment
Patois is a Jamaican creole dialect.
The ride to school and subsequent conversation with his best friend have left Efrain with some "food for thought." At the end of the chapter, why do you think Efrain says, "I am my own man"?
Chapter 10 - Brazen (adj.) Excessively Bold, Brash
Regents, which is short for New York State Regents Examinations, are end-of-the-year tests in a range of subjects. Students who pass these tests are granted a Regents diploma.
Mr. Harris, the Physics teacher, just might like this video. Watch it and hear a musical explanation of what he is covering in the Physics class. (This annotation contains a video)
In the play Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, Cyrano and Christian de Neuvillette are foil characters whose differences highlight aspects of their personalities. This allusion, or reference to another literary work, functions well here because it connects to the differences in attitude between Efrain and his friend.
While Efrain may be able to tutor other high school students in academic subjects, Lefty suggests that he could teach Efrain
Chapter 11 - Affinity (n.) A Spontaneous Feeling of Closeness
We discover a few more details about Efrain's life both inside and outside of school. What are some adjectives that you would use to describe him? Why?
Both Candace and Efrain are serious students who plan to attend college. This conversation illustrates their varied approaches to the college process. What conclusion can you draw from their discussion?
Chapter 12 - Obdurate (adj.) Unyielding to Persuasion or Moral Influence
Use the Define feature and discover the meaning of the word intuitive. What word below is the best antonym for intuitive?
What if this conversation about "loftier ambitions" was told in Efrain's voice? What parts would be similar? What parts would be different? Why?
If you had to make a list of three to five reasons why Efrain wants to leave for college, what would you include?
Chisme means a story worth telling your friends.
Chapter 13 - Oscillate (v.) To Sway From One Side to the Other
It's interesting to hear more about Efrain's relationship with his younger sister. Like most siblings, they have times of conflict but are loyal to and protective of one another.
In this paragraph, Efrain frames the questions that both frustrate him and keep him motivated to succeed. Write a short response in which you analyze the various forces at work in his life. What is his greatest obstable? What is his greatest fear?
In novels, plays, and short stories, there are often key moments -- called turning points -- that shift the action of the plot and reveal new information about the characters. As this chapter ends, Efrain asks Nestor to "hook me up with a job"? What do you think will happen next?
Chapter 14 - Obstinate (adj.) Not Yielding Easily, Stubborn
Based on the previous details, the reader can determine that Snipes
A reference to Greek mythology, Cerebus is a three headed dog who guards the gates of the underworld. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 15 - Conciliatory (adj.) Friendly, Agreeable
Mr. Sweren seems to know Efrain well and he is generally very encouraging of his college plans. As the novel moves forward, keep this moment between the two characters in mind.
While the fact that he will take the SAT again is technically true, Efrain is quitting the tutoring job because
Here, Efrain tells his second "white lie". As the plot begins to unfold in new directions, keep track of the different ways that Efrain covers up his real money making scheme.
Think back to earlier in the novel. What was the topic of the book that Candace borrowed?
Chapter 16 - Novice (n.) Beginner, Someone Without Training or Experience
The jail barge is not fictional; it actually exists in this location and has been used for various purposes. (This annotation contains a link)
There is no doubt that this illegal activity is very dangerous. What do you think might happen if one dealer trespassed in another dealer's territory?
Chapter 17 - Chide (v.) To Voice Disapproval
While Efrain has his doubts about his new job right away, Nestor tries to convince him that he will eventually feel more comfortable and make more money. Consider the varied experiences of these two boys as you read the next few chapters.
The final sentence of this chapter uses personification, a literary technique that attributes human actions to non-human things. What does "until the dark gives up on me and crawls away from my window" mean?
Chapter 18 - Discern (v.) To Perceive, Detect
What does Efrain mean when he explains that Candace is different than other girls?
Parents and guardians have different opinions on an appropriate age and context for a first date. At what age and under what circumstances do you think a first date is appropriate? What values and family rules inform your answer?
Chapter 19 - Exorable (adj.) Susceptible to Being Persuaded or Moved By Entreaty
It is said that, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." In this chapter, Efrain makes a concerted effort to win over Candace's mother. Write a few sentences about whether or not you agree with his actions.
Chapter 20 - Prescient (adj.) Having Foreknowledge of Events
This reference, if you've ever watched "The Flintstones" cartoon series, should provide a giggle. Barney (pictured below) and his friends drive around a pre-historic town in cars powered by their running feet. (This annotation contains an image)
A beta tester is a person who tests new software before it gets released.
Chingy's invention in this chapter reveals a hidden talent. What has he created?
Chapter 21 - Corroborate (v.) To Support with Evidence
In addition to the historical references of these female names, Nestor's name also has an interesting backstory. Nestor is a warrior in the Greek saga, The Odyssey. He's a brave soldier who is known for his loyalty and hospitality.
In this conversation, two different life lessons are at odds with one another. Is a "man what a man does" or is "a man more than what he does to make ends meet"? On which side of the argument do your beliefs fall? Why?
Review Quiz, Chapters 1 to 21
Chapter 22 - Buttress (v.) To Support, Hold Up
Fordham University, located in the Bronx, was founded in 1841. (This annotation contains an image)
Many victims of Hurricane Katrina needed help in dealing with the aftermath. Displaced from their homes and worried about finding steady employment in new locations, both young and old people sought out support groups and other resources to help them cope. This article details a special program for some of the youngest impacted by this natural disaster. (This annotation contains a link)
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) Train of Thought series on New York subways and buses displays artwork and quotes from famous literature for riders to enjoy while commuting around the city.
Plagiarism is a significant issue in high school and college courses. What is your understanding of plagiarism? Write a few sentences that show your developing knowledge of this topic.
Chapter 23 - Inimical (adj.) Unfriendly, Hostile, Having the Disposition of An Enemy
An allusion is a reference to another literary work. The Yellow Brick Road is one of the central images in Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. The four main characters in that novel trace the brick road as a path on their journey. (This annotation contains an image)
When Efrain gets attacked by members of the rival drug selling operation, Nestor and some of the other boys help diffuse the situation. Here, Nestor states that "...the brothers fell in for me. For Snipes." What does he mean?
Chapter 24 - Gregarious (adj.) Drawn to the Company of Others, Sociable
Authors employ similes -- comparisons that use like or as -- to illustrate ideas via imagery. "Her voice is cold and thin like films of ice that now cover our front steps" brings to mind both the cool reception that Efrain's mom offers to Nestor as well as the current winter season.
Chanclas are house sandals or slippers.
Imagine that the narrator was able to capture Efrain's mom's thoughts and reactions here.Write a short paragraph that reveals what she is thinking and feeling in this situation.
Chapter 25 - Chaos (n.) Absolute Disorder
This chapter provides insight to Nestor's home life. With a mom, siblings, and his sister's two children, the apartment is chaotic and crowded. Nestor does have quite a few expensive items in his bedroom which is evidence that he makes a comfortable amount of money working for Snipes.
Assuming that Nestor's interpretation of the possible phrasing is also an accurate one, what does "my word is my bond" mean to him?
At this point in the novel, think about whether the characters have changed or grown. Use this video to help spark your thinking. (This annotation contains a video)
Chapter 26 - Abjure (v.) To Reject, Renounce
Abjure is a very unique verb. After reading this chapter, write a few sentences about how this word connects to the plot. What has Chingy rejected? What has Efrain renounced?
At the end of this conversation, both boys demonstrate their current frame of mind. Pay attention to how Efrain's priorities seem to have shifted since starting his new job. Consider whether or not you think this is a permanent shift.
Chapter 27 - Disdain (v.) To Scorn, Hold in Low Esteem
The Three Musketeers first appeared in a novel by Alexandre Dumas which was published in 1844. The three heroes in the novel -- who follow a fourth leader -- live by the motto "all for one, one for all." (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 28 - Caustic (adj.) Bitter, Biting, Acidic
In this paragraph, Efrain details one of the "rules" of interaction when out in the neighborhood. He contends that when someone heckles another person on the street that "the only right answer is no answer". Keep this in mind as the conversation between Gigi and Efrain escalates.
Chapter 29 - Enamor (v.) To Fill with Love
Use the Define feature to look up plausible. Which word below is the best antonym, or word opposite in meaning?
Another theme of the novel surfaces in Efrain's quote, "You just don't throw away a good relationship because your friend makes a choice that you wouldn't." Provide two or three examples (using specific, textual evidence) of how this quote connects to the developing central idea.
Staurolite is a mineral that is brown with flecks of white. The cross and heart shapes in the photo are made of staurolite. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 30 - Dissent (n.) Disagreement
Andover and Exeter are exclusive, East Coast college prep schools that send a large number of their students to Ivy League colleges.
This discussion highlights the different approaches that Candace and Efrain hold in terms of connecting college options with their ethnicity and culture. How would you categorize their approaches?
Chapter 31 - Consolation (n.) An Act of Comforting
This conversation about dating and falling in love does show Efrain's lack of experience in these areas. As the novel continues, pay attention to how he learns more about what he calls "something good".
What do you think of his mom's advice? Do you think your parent or guardian would give similar advice? Why or why not?
Chapter 32 - Cleave 1. (v.) To Stick Together Firmly 2. (v.) To Divide Into Parts
Family traditions are very important; they provide structure to various milestones in the life of a family member. What are your special family traditions?
For what does Efrain feels grateful? How would his list be different from his mother? Or his sister? Why?
Chapter 33 - Pathos (n.) An Emotion of Sympathy
Efrain calls his own response hypocritical. Consider whether or not he wants to suffer expulsion for getting caught dealing drugs.
What is the correct summary for this "code" that Efrain details?
There are some excellent vocabulary words on this page: pristine, alibi, charade, and quid pro quo. Make sure you take your time and check on these words with the Define tool as you read.
This conversation helps the reader learn about Candace and her maturity level. If faced with his father's death, consider how Efrain might react.
Chapter 34 - Veneer (n.) A Superficial or Deceptively Attractive Appearance, Facade
Senator Joseph McCarthy is best remembered for his attempts to accuse other public figures of involvement in communist party activities. He was a polarizing figure as some senators supported him while others found his methods mean spirited and unethical.
What is an urban legend?
What does Nestor's advice about "getting shook" imply?
Chapter 35 - Sanguine 1. (adj.) Consisting of or Relating to Blood 2. (Adj.) Optimistic
Three Kings' Day (or los Tres Reyes or Ephinany) is a holiday celebrated in many different ways. This slideshow contains some interesting representations of this special celebration. (This annotation contains a link)
A patron saint is a saint considered to have jurisdiction over a certain area. For example, St. Anthony is thought to help people find lost items. When a believer in saints loses an item, he or she would direct a quick prayer to St. Anthony to ask for assistance in locating the missing item.
Chapter 36 - Relish (v.) To Enjoy
Keeping track of all of his fibs or white lies is becoming more difficult. Consider, at what point, which omission of the truth might bring on a situation that proves too hard to cover up.
Chapter 37 - Fidelity (n.) Loyalty, Devotion
This situation is paradoxical. On the one hand, Efrain's mom has scrimped and saved $5,500 over the course of 17 years through hard work and honest means while Efrain claims to have made the same amount of money in 8 weeks through involvement in illegal activity.
In many works of literature, father and son relationships are complicated. Part of becoming a man involves deciding whether or not a person will emulate his father's traits. In this chapter, Efrain gets some sage advice about growing older, and about his father, from his mother.
What does Efrain mean when he labels his father as "an egomaniac"?
Chapter 38 - Empathy (n.) Sensitivity to Another’s Feelings as if They were One’s Own
The Cheshire cat appears in Alice in Wonderland and is known for his broad smile. (This annotation contains an image)
Efrain feels conflicted about the gifts. On the one hand, it's hard for him to understand why someone he rarely sees would purchase gifts for him. On the other hand, the gifts will provide him an easy excuse for the other clothes he's acquired. This conflict mirrors his mixed feelings about his dad; he does not know whether spending time and energy on a relationship with him is a good thing or a bad thing.
Do you remember this reference from earlier in the novel? What did Mrs. Colfax say to Efrain in connection to fish?
Chapter 39 - Collusion (n.) A Secret Agreement, Conspiracy
Before you read more of this chapter, think of two or three reasons why Efrain would think that a double date with Nestor and Gigi is a bad idea.
This is a reference to Roger Clemens, a famous baseball player who was on the Yankees and several other teams, who was accused of taking steroids.
Chapter 40 - Elucidate (v.) To Clarify, Explain
Imagery is description which appeals to the senses. Through Candace's vivid words, the reader can see, hear, and smell the experience of Hurricane Katrina.
The Superdome became a place of refuge for many of the evacuees. Quickly, it became overcrowded and services ran too thin to cover the needs of those assembled. (This annotation contains an image)
This image shows the geography of New Orleans detailed in this conversation. (This annotation contains an image)
Chapter 41 - Apprehend (v.) To Seize, Arrest
With these words, the plot of the novel abruptly changes direction. Imagine this scene as told from the point of view of the police officers. How would this shift in perspective impact the reader's understanding of this moment?
Chapter 42 - Egregious (adj.) Extremely Bad
Efrain and Nestor also communicated with the two women in the car. What does the reader now realize about the women?
The Fifth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, reads: "No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."
Efrain uses an interesting phrase here; he states that the SAT words flooding his brain "ambush my conscience." Efrain's dual identity -- the honors scholar with a secret job -- comes to the forefront in this scene.
Chapter 43 - Timorous (v.) Timid, Fearful
Reading Quiz, Chapters 22 to 42
Use the Define feature to look up this interesting legal word. What is the best antonym, or word opposite in meaning, to recognizance?
Chapter 44 - Forlorn (adj.) Lonely, Abandoned, Hopeless
Efrain is facing more serious consequences than he originally thought possible. To check for understanding, consider the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor.
This page provides a quick explanation of serial numbers on United States paper currency. (This annotation contains a link)
At this point, Efrain is clinging to possible best case scenarios. Summarize what his attorney believes might help him retain a chance at attending college in September.
Chapter 45 - Incendiary (n.) A Person who Agitates
Here, the reader finds out that Efrain's father is the parent who is present at the hearing. What is your reaction to this line? Explain your thoughts in three or four sentences.
Chapter 46 - Abhor (v.) To Hate, Detest
Up to this point in the novel, the reader has not seen an angry or violent side to Efrain. Explain what motivates or complicates this intense encounter. Use specific quotations from the text to support your points.
Chapter 47 - Repudiate (v.) To Reject, Refuse to Accept
Look over Efrain's extended explanation of his reasoning. Consider one of his statements: "Nice guys finish last." Is this a correct assumption? Why or why not?
Efrain's mom has made a significant decision. Did you anticipate this form of discipline? Write three or four sentences to explain your reaction.
Chapter 48 - Raucous (adj.) Loud, Boisterous
Instead of walking to his father's apartment, Efrain goes to Nestor's place. He has not returned home after being arrested.
Chapter 49 - Acerbic (adj.) Biting, Bitter in Tone or Taste
Examine why Efrain chooses to go to school in his bruised and battered state. He states, "It's all I have left to undo the damage I've caused." What does he mean?
Efrain shows that he is pulled in two different directions by his involvement with Nestor and the crew. Place yourself in "his shoes" and provide more detail about "sometimes I feel bad about what I do, and sometimes I am proud that I can take care of myself."
Chapter 50 - Enmity (n.) Ill will, Hatred, Hostility
The Wall Street Journal is a daily newspaper that analyzes business practices and corporate developments among other topics.
Chapter 51 - Advocate (n.) A Person who Argues in Favor of Someone or Something
Suspension from school for the remainder of the day complicates Efrain's life but pales in comparison to the other trouble that he is facing. Mr. Graves says that Efrain should have been more thoughtful before letting himself get involved in an on campus fight. There are many other adults in the story who would have offered a similar moral.
As you read this letter, keep in mind Efrain in the beginning of the novel. Then carefully consider his reaction when he finishes reading the recommendation.
Chapter 52 - Resolute (adj.) Firm, Determined
The Common Application is accepted by over 500 colleges. Having one application format helps students streamline their process by avoiding duplication of efforts; students can submit the same personal information sheets, resumes, test score summaries, and essays to each school.
Chapter 53 - Inextricable (adj.) Hopelessly Entangled
As you read this dynamic dialogue between Nestor and Efrain, keep in mind the character development ideas from this video. (This annotation contains a video)
Consider Efrain and Nestor's friendship. Do you think they have a tight bond? Why or why not?
The Coreleone family is the fictitious crime family that appears in The Godfather, a film depiction of the Italian Mafia in New York City.
Chapter 54 - Renunciation (n.) Rejection
Efrain has a moment of realization about how he and Candace are similar and different. Based on evidence from this chapter, make your own list of how they are similar and different.
Chapter 55 - Conformist (n.) One Who Behaves the Same as Others
Consider the theme presented in Snipes' words: men are judged by their strengths. While each person has different strengths, he or she can exploit those strengths to be successful.
Chapter 56 - Camaraderie (n.) Brotherhood
Both Nestor and Efrain would like life to be different than their current situation. Nestor explains that he wants his younger brother to escape the current situation as well.
Chapter 58 - Assail (v.) To Attack
Violence has clearly had an impact on Efrain's psyche. This informative link discusses how adolescents are impacted by different forms of violence (This annotation contains a link)
In a reversal of roles, Nestor has become the friend in the relationship who seems more focused on the future.
Why does Efrain have questions about Lefty and what does it mean to be a police informant?
Chapter 59 - Compunction (n.) Distress Caused by Feeling Guilty
This is an interesting scene to consider point of view one more time. Imagine if Efrain's mother was the person telling the story. (This annotation contains a video)
Nestor dies shielding Efrain from the gun shots. Think about what this final act of friendship means to Efrain.
Chapter 60 - Acquiesce (v.) To Agree Without Protesting
This flashback helps the reader see Efrain's relationship with his sister when they were both much younger. Now, in this current scene, it is his sister's turn to once again remind him that he serves as a role model and protector for her, whether he likes it or not.
Chapter 61 - Condolence (n.) An Expression of Sympathy in Sorrow
Halle Berry, a famous actress, is widely admired for her natural beauty. (This annotation contains a link)
Adversity does tend to help people understand each other and rely on each other. Consider this scene from the perspective of Gigi. Her boyfriend has died but she is able to hold on to memories by visiting with their mutual friend.
Chapter 62 - Atone (v.) To Repent, Make Amends
What does Efrain need to "do for Nestor"?
Chapter 63 - Cultivate (v.) To Nurture, Improve, Refine
The move for Puerto Rican statehood is an ongoing current event. It's an issue upon which even friends disagree. (This annotation contains a link)
Chapter 64 - Vindicate (v.) To Avenge, Free from Allegations, Set Free
The idea of second chances is one that pervades many works of literature. What do you think Efrain will need to do to take full advantage of his second chance?
Chapter 65 - Fervent (adj.) Ardent, Passionate
Reading Quiz, Chapters 43 to 65
Is this the ending you expected? Why or why not? Write five to seven sentences about your reaction to the way the novel concludes.