‘The Traz’ – a heartbreaking story about youth and consequences

I must admit when I first started reading ‘The Traz’ (the first book of the BackTracker series), by Eileen Schuh, I wasn’t sure if I would really be able to relate to it or not.  After all, I am a pretty straight-laced person.  I’ve never done drugs, never really took up smoking or drinking, never joined a gang or ran with a rough crowd and wouldn’t be caught dead on a dark city street at night.  However, I did grow up around people who did all of those things.  Some of those people were able to give up the street life and settle down, but some of them ended up homeless, in prison or dead.

The main character in ‘The Traz’ is a 13-year-old girl named Katrina.  Katrina has a lot going for her.  She is highly intelligent, in fact, she ranks as a genius according to the Mensa scale, and she is also wealthy and beautiful, even if she does still look like a child.  Katrina has also endured more than her share of heartache.  Everyone who ever cared about her has passed away, including her beloved grandparents and her father.  Katrina’s mother is also dead, but since Katrina and her mother never got along this doesn’t seem to affect Katrina as much as the loss of her other relatives.

After she is left alone, Katrina starts to rebel and act out, like almost any child would in those circumstances.  It gets to the point that her new guardians can’t handle her, so they plan to hand her over to social services.  At this point, Katrina meets a member of a local biker gang and takes off with him.  I’m not sure that she really wanted to be a part of this gang, but she was desperate to belong somewhere and didn’t want to end up being forced to live with strangers in a foster home.

Intrigued by the danger and excitement of street life, Katrina finds herself falling farther into the gang lifestyle.  Of course, there is a part of her that still wants to play on the safe side too, particularly since Katrina’s father was a police officer when he was alive.  Soon Katrina is playing both sides, which can be the most dangerous place to be, especially when there are secrets and betrayals going on all around.

I don’t want to give away the entire plot, but I will say that the story is gritty and realistic from what I have seen of street life.  As a foster parent, I have seen many children like Katrina who are confused, alone and looking for anywhere to belong, regardless of how dangerous that place may be.  This book is very engaging since readers want to see Katrina make good choices and go on to live a good life even though there are so many obstacles blocking her path.  Hopefully this series won’t end in tragedy, although it seems that danger is lurking around every corner.

Although this book has been recommended by some readers for preteens, teens and adults, I personally think this book is more appropriate for teens and adults than it is for preteens.  Of course, each child matures at their own rate and some children are wise beyond their years, so it’s really up to the parent to decide what is appropriate and helpful to their child.  I will say that I really love the section that the author added to the back of the book where she looks closely at the choices that were made in the story and encourages readers to think critically about the consequences each choice entails.

‘The Traz’ is an engaging read that is both entertaining and thought-provoking.  If you would like to read this story for yourself, you can order the Kindle edition from Amazon.com for only $2.99, or you can order the story in various electronic formats from Smashwords.com.

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