Title: Forged by Fire
Author: Sharon M. Draper
Publication Year: 1997
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult
Source: Borrowed from the library at school
I’m starting to really love Sharon Draper’s books. They’re really fantastic!
The book starts off with a chapter that was originally published as a short story, told from the point of view of three-year-old Gerald. In this chapter, we learn about the severe lack of parenting skills that Gerald’s mother possesses – as just a few examples, she leaves him sitting in soiled underwear all day “to teach him a lesson”, often leaves him alone in the apartment for hours at a time, and Gerald has already learned not to bother her when she’s been sniffing “the white stuff” that she gets from her friend Mr. Leroy. Another of the absolutely wonderful lessons that his mother teaches him is after she catches him playing with her lighter: she holds his hand over the flame long enough that he ends up with a scar. She never really understands why Gerald was attracted to the lighter in the first place, though, and so when she leaves the apartment again and he finds it, he wants to see the beautiful dancer that he thinks lives inside there, and ends up catching the curtains on fire. He then hides behind the couch.
After he is rescued, Gerald ends up going to live with his Aunt Queen. The novel skips ahead to the day before his 9th birthday, when he finds out that his mother has been out of jail for a year and is coming over to see him. Some events ensue (I don’t want to give too much away), but essentially, his mother (Monique) has a new husband, Jordan, and they have a daughter, Angel, who she was pregnant with when she went to jail, and they eventually end up living together. Jordan is … well, a horrible and violent man, particularly to Angel, who is terrified of telling anyone about the things that he has been doing to her. The rest of the story unfolds from there.
I absolutely loved this book. There was so much going on all the time, especially in the relationships between the characters, and the depth of their emotions and their suffering is astounding. Draper tends to write young adult books that are incredibly realistic, and this is no exception. I found myself incredibly invested in the characters, wanting things to get better for them and feeling their pain when things were getting worse instead of improving.
Forged by Fire is technically the sequel to the book Tears of a Tiger, but I’m not entirely sure why. The event that kicks of Tears of a Tiger is actually found within Forge by Fire, near the end of the book. Strange.
I would recommend that you do what I did – go straight into reading Forged by Fire. It’s absolutely fantastic, and I guarantee that you will want to devour it in one sitting.