Today we're excited to spotlight On The Hook by Francisco X Stork.
Read on for more about Francisco and his book, an excerpt, plus an giveaway!
Meet Francisco X Stork!
Francisco X. Stork emigrated from Mexico at the age of nine with his mother and his adoptive father. He is the author of nine novels including: Marcelo in the Real World, recipient of the Schneider Family Book Award, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, which received the Elizabeth Walden Award, The Memory of Light, recipient of the Tomás Rivera Award, Disappeared, which received the Young Adult Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and was a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book and Illegal, recipient of the In the Margins Award and the Young Adult Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. On the Hook published in May of 2021 received starred reviews from Booklist, Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly.
Meet On The Hook!
"You know I'm coming. You're dead already."
Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He's the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.
Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he's going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector's death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows -- to drop off Joey's radar -- to become no one.
But when a fight between Chavo and Hector's brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.
The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It's up to Hector to choose whether he's going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.
~ Excerpt ~
It was still light at seven when Hector walked to the back of the grocery store. Besides stacking and pricing, one of Hector’s jobs was folding cardboard boxes and tossing them in the recycling bin. It was an easy job that allowed him to think about other things. That evening he was thinking about his brother, Fili. There was something different about him lately. He was coming home earlier than usual, and he did not reek of alcohol when he tumbled into bed.
Could it be that Fili was finally pulling out of the depres- sion he had fallen into after Papá died?
Hector froze when he heard the roar from a car behind him. He turned quickly, but there was no blue Impala. It was just a delivery van in need of a new muffler. The whole thing with Joey had him rattled. I’ll be looking for you? It seemed like a very specific thing to say. Specific words specifically directed at him. Hector remembered how Chavo had tossed a beer can in the back of Fili’s truck the week before. It wasn’t just a careless toss; there was anger in the way he threw the can. Hector later went out and picked up the can before Fili could see it. His brother was very protective of his truck, and if he’d seen the can, he’d have known it was Chavo and his friends who’d tossed it there. Fili was not afraid of anyone. He’d go up to Chavo and say a few choice words to him, or worse.
Hector heard footsteps behind him. A tremor ran through him. He knew, even before he turned around, that the foot- steps were Joey’s.
Maybe Joey needed a few empty boxes for the drug busi- ness. Frank, Hector’s boss, had a rule that all empty box requests had to go through him, but Hector decided, right then and there, that if Joey wanted boxes, he could take as many as he wanted.
Hector scanned the loading docks for another Piggly Wiggly employee, but there was no one. The recycling containers were in a far corner of the lot, where the trucks could have enough room to back in and pull out. No one driving by on the street would see the containers. Hector reminded himself that the word in the projects was that Chavo could be violent for no reason, but there were no such rumors about Joey.
Joey had gotten into fights at school with kids who had disrespected him somehow. And what had Hector ever done or said to Joey? Nothing. There was no reason to be afraid. Except, Hector thought as he turned around, for the cold look on Joey’s face, and the slow, purposeful way he was walking, like he meant to kill.
“What’s up?” Hector said, trying to sound casual. Joey moved in closer than was needed for a normal conversation. Hector hugged an empty box of baby food against his chest.
“You think you the big mierda?” Joey asked. Joey’s tone was different than when he’d called Hector a pendejo ear- lier. There was less insult in his voice. It was as if Joey had casually asked Hector for the time. There was a slight slur to his words, and Hector thought maybe Joey was drunk. He looked for other signs of inebriation, signs Hector was famil- iar with, but he didn’t see any.
“I’m asking you. You think you the big mierda?”
The question jolted Hector. He had assumed from Joey’s round, shaved head and tattooed neck that the kid was com‐ pletely checked out. So why would Joey ask that? Had he heard about how he was the best chess player at school?
Realizing he owed Joey a response, Hector said hastily, “What? No. I don’t think that. What are you talking about?”
Joey slapped the box from Hector’s hands. Hector stepped back and tripped on the boxes he had yet to fold. Joey grabbed Hector’s T‐shirt and lifted him off his toes with the same ease with which Hector had been picking up empty boxes. Joey’s face was so close to him that he could smell cinnamon on his breath.
“Look at me!” Joey ordered.
Hector forced himself to stare into Joey’s eyes. The dark circles floated as if unhinged, but when they finally came to rest, Hector saw hatred there. Not the kind that blazed up with momentary anger but one that had been smoldering for a long time. But why? What had he ever done to Joey? This was not making any sense.
Hector stuck his right hand in his pocket to keep it from trembling. “What do you want?” he asked. He had to look away from Joey’s steady stare.
Joey jerked Hector’s hand out of the pocket. Then, pinning Hector against the dumpster, he dug into Hector’s pocket and pulled out a box cutter. He slid the small blade out and held it in front of Hector’s face. “You gonna use this?”
Hector shook his head. “Let me go,” he said weakly. What was it that Fili had once said to him about not showing fear? But it was useless to pretend he wasn’t afraid or to try to manufacture courage he knew he didn’t have.
Joey moved the blade in front of Hector’s eyes as if trying to hypnotize him. “You and your pinche brother are nothing but pieces of stinking cagada.”
“You’re a coward.”
“Okay? You’re a coward?”
“I guess so.”
“I’m . . . a coward.”
“That chavita you were walking with earlier—what’s her name?”
Hector shook his head.
Joey put his hands around Hector’s neck, softly at first, and then he began to squeeze.
“What’s her name?”
“Azarakhsh Pourmohammadi,” Hector said between gasps.
“It’s . . . her . . . name.” Hector tried to pull Joey’s arm away. “Where’s she from? Las Cruces?” Joey roared with laughter. There was a joke in there somewhere, but only Joey knew where.
Hector stood on his toes to relieve the pressure, but Joey’s grip gradually increased until all air coming into Hector’s lungs was cut off. Then, just as Hector was about to lose consciousness, Joey let him go. Hector sank to his knees, coughing and gagging. As soon as he could breathe, Joey pulled Hector’s hair until Hector was on his feet again.
“Listen to me, culero.” Joey grabbed Hector’s face and held it until Hector’s eyes were focused. “I’m gonna kill you.”
“Cállate. I’m talking. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna slice you up. Not now. Soon. I want you to think about it. Every pinche minute of your pinche vida you be thinking about it. Be waiting for it. And this is so you don’t forget you’re a gusano. A mierda, a cobarde.” Joey stuck his forearm in Hector’s neck and pushed his head hard against the recycling container. He lifted Hector’s T‐shirt and slowly carved a C in the left side of Hector’s chest, above his heart.
On The Hook
By: Francisco X. Stork
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: May 18th, 2021
Two winners will receive a copy of On The Hook (Francisco X. Stork) ~ (US Only)
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