Best Fiction for Young Adults (#BFYA2022) Featured Review of On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork

On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork
Scholastic Press
Publication Date: May 18, 2021
ISBN: 978-1338692150

The last few years haven’t been easy for Hector and his family. His father’s untimely death resulted in the loss of their home and subsequent move to the projects, and sent his brother Fili into a battle with depression and alcohol abuse. But things seem to be looking up–Hector’s become a star player on the school’s chess team and just recently won a prestigious essay contest. Even Fili seems to be doing better. Then, Joey, the younger brother of a local gang member, targets Hector, intimidating him and threatening to kill him. Terrified, but too afraid to tell anyone, Hector’s life begins spiraling downhill again, culminating in a tragic encounter that lands Hector in a reformatory school along with his nemesis, Joey. 

Stork returns to his 2006 novel, Behind the Eyes, in this intense, character-driven novel about revenge and forgiveness. Stork sensitively portrays the healing power of  empathy and forgiveness and demonstrates the precarious balance faced by many teens, where one tragic act can upend a promising future. Teens will relate to Hector, a Mexican American teen struggling to negotiate intense emotions of fear, anger, and grief. Hector is surrounded by a number of supportive characters, both adult and peers, who attempt to help him navigate this difficult emotional landscape. Ultimately, however, it is Hector’s courageous choices that bring about change and give the story a satisfying and hopeful conclusion. 

Give this to readers who were moved by books about troubled teens caught in the cycle of vengeance, like Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds or Concrete Rose by Angie Thomas. Books about the justice system, such as Ibi Zoboi’s Punching the Air or Nic Stone’s Dear Justyce, would also be a good match.

Heather Christensen

Other Nominated Titles

  • The Upper World by Femi Fadugba (December 7, 2021)
  • Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating by Adiba Jaigirdar (May 25, 2021)
  • Flash Fire by T.J. Klune (July 13, 2021)
  • The Other Side of Perfect by Mariko Turk (May 11, 2021)
  • When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez (September 21, 2021)

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination. 

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten. The previous years’ lists are available on The Hub.