Bucking the Sarge was an intense book that I recommend for high school students due to the content of the novel. This novel talks about shady business, drugs, and much more than is not appropriate for a middle school classroom, in my opinion.
Bucking the Sarge, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is about a young African American boy named Luther and his mother, also known as The Sarge. His mother, The Sarge, decides to go to Flint, Michigan to work in real estate. The houses that she owns barely even meet the state codes regarding cleanliness. This is not the only type of business she does, however. She is also involved in secret and shady work, like running a loan shark operation. While The Sarge is down a terrible path, her son Luther has dreams of rightfully earned success. He has dreams of becoming a philosopher and studying at Harvard University. Because this business is not getting Luther anywhere near his own dreams in life, he decides to go against her and use the education fund of around $90,000 to get out of Michigan.
This is quite the novel, and the author does a wonderful job at making the characters as believable as possible, as well as having a very well rounded and developed protagonist, Luther. Luther breaks free and challenges stereotypes of young adults by staying clean of drugs, remaining celibate, and genuinely enjoying school, especially science. This is a wonderful lesson to teach students who may grow up in not the best home, you are still capable of becoming a great and successful person. There may be hurdles and barriers in your way and people that you need to revolt against, but you get to chose your own path in life, just as Luther revolted and took a different path than his mother did.
Like previously stated, I do recommend this book, but I believe it has to be taught in a high school class due to the content of the novel. This is unfortunate, however, that this book is out of the range that I will be teaching! I would have loved to teach this book to a class, as it talks a lot about making good choices, similar to that in Handbook for Boys, as well as the bias and injustice we hold in our society today.