Morgenroth, Kate. Jude. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004.
While this books is supposed to be a young adult novel, it reads more like an adult book with a teenage character. Not that it matters as this book is fantastic. It had me on the edge of my seat, so to speak, from beginning to end.
Jude grows up with his father, who is an abusive drug dealer. He has always moved from place to place, but has been living in a Hartford slum for the last 2 years. His father is killed in their home while Jude looks on. He has to promise to never tell who it was, or they will kill him too. The detectives find some paperwork that indicates that Jude was kidnapped by his father when he was just three months old. He had always thought he was abandoned by his mother. It also turns out that his mother is DA for West Hartford.
Jude has a hard time fitting in with his mother and her boyfriend Harry. He also has problems at his new private school. He is asked to help some kids find drugs. While he doesn't sell drugs himself, he connects the kids with some people in his old neighborhood. Detectives, who are still trying to get him for his father's murder, see him with these known drug dealers.
Harry convinces Jude it would be a good idea to get caught selling drugs. His mother is running for mayor and looking tough on crime and drugs would help her case. Harry and Jude set up an elaborate scheme wherein Jude gets caught by his mother and then gets arrested selling drugs. Jude does this to help his mother, from whom he desperately desires acceptance. He is promised by Harry that once she is elected, they will get him out of juvenile detention. This do horribly awry and Jude ends up in the state penitentiary and Harry refuses to help him. Turns out Harry was just trying to get rid of him.
The story progresses from there, with Jude falling apart in prison and then finally building himself up. His goal is still to be accepted by his mother. For that, he needs Harry to tell his mother the truth, which is harder said than done.
Anyone that reads this book will be sucked into the story. Jude is a good person, who lived a hard life. He is flawed because he makes some silly mistakes and is too trusting of some people he shouldn't trust. But, all the same, Jude really is a good person in there, and wants to make something of himself. He is truly the underdog, and we root for him the entire time. All he really wants his entire life is love and acceptance, and it has eluded him for much of his life. Highly recommended for anyone that enjoys stories about crime and anyone that enjoys suspenseful books. This one is a litttle longer than most YA titles, but most readers won't even notice because they will be sucked in right away and have to get to the end to see how it ends.