Author: Mark McKenna
ISBN: 978-0-9831055-3-4
Publisher: Precipitation Press

Click Here To Purchase The Word Gang

A young adult book that will delight adults as well as teens.  Mark McKenna has created a wonderful story based on every author's and reader’s first love: the written word.  All of the characters in the novel are well developed; we learn about their backgrounds and can sympathise with their flaws.  Even the detestable teacher, Mr. Ralston, seems to have a side to him that we can all relate to.
After taking a year off school, without telling her mother, Kalisha Jackson begins to feel guilty and decides to go back to school when the new year begins.  She finds herself in Project Restart, a new type of teaching system for students who are deemed to be failing in some way.  On her first day, she gets off to a bad start when she turns up late, and her moody teacher, Mr. Ralston, immediately marks her out as a bad seed.

Kalisha quickly makes friends with two fellow students in Project Restart; BD, who lives with his alcoholic father; and Sahmbaht, whose family fled from Cambodia for a better life in America, but have brought their painful memories with them. 

After helping out an elderly neighbour, Kalisha is given a gift; a dictionary.  She begins to read it and starts learning new words.  When she uses one of these unknown words in class one day, her teacher thinks she is trying to be disruptive. 

Kalisha and her new friends formulate a plan.  They have had enough of being treated as troublemakers through no fault of their own, so they decide to learn as many new and obscure words as possible with the intention of making a mockery of Project Restart and hopefully destroying it. 

The ensuing adventure is a fun and engaging read; and also educational as there are many rarely used words contained in the novel.  This is the type of book that could encourage teens and young adults to look at language in a different way, and perhaps inspire them to learn more words or even more languages. 
The story held my interest all the way through.  The elderly neighbour, Mr. Spinoza, is a wonderfully eccentric character, and I liked the interaction between him and Kalisha.

There seems to be is a deeper meaning to this story; all about how anyone can be misunderstood.  For example, Kalisha is affected by her parents' divorce.  Her teacher, Jack Ralston does not try to find out about reasons why the children in Project Restart might be failing, but labels them as disruptive and undisciplined; he has little patience with them.  Meanwhile, Kalisha at such a young age has been helping to keep her family together, bringing up her two young siblings while her mother works the night shift at a hospital to make ends meet.  Kalisha also shows her caring side when she first meets old Mr. Spinoza.

The Word Gang is all about how misunderstandings can make problems worse, and that it is best to try a bit harder to see the reasons behind the way people behave before you judge them.
Mark McKenna has somehow managed to get inside the minds of his characters and create realistic, believable people.
A very enjoyable read, highly recommended.

Click Here To Purchase The Word Gang