Reviewed by Dylan James (age 12) for Reader Views (7/09)
In “Guardian,” Ansel tries to understand the strange world he lives in, where one man can own another man with only a different color separating them. He hates this and despises it so much so that he insists on being equals with every man of another color he sees. Soon the hoodlum of the town commits rape and murder and he immediately blames it on the closest black person to him. Everybody in town can obviously see the hoodlum did it, but as whites are always right and blacks are supposedly always wrong, they lynch the black man. Ansel is so stung by his own father going along with this horrible action that with his mother’s help, he runs away to live a better life.
Straight off, I can tell you with the utmost confidence that “Guardian” by Julius Lester is a good book for everyone to read at some point in their lives. It shows how different America (supposedly the land of the free) was decades ago. This can help us better ourselves for the future. Although this book should be read, there definitely should be a minimum age. This is a very sad story; with nothing going the way it should. Ansel’s love is the one raped and murdered. Ansel’s best friend’s dad is the one falsely accused and lynched. There is brutal violence from Zeph, the hoodlum. The murder/rape isn’t described in detail at all; readers are told about it and Ansel finds the victim’s body. There is also several scenes dealing with sensual desires; in fact about 1/4 of this book has to do with woman victims of men’s desire. Ansel’s mom is married forcibly because his dad had more or less raped her in the back of a car.
This book is obviously not intended for young audiences. Sensible, mature young teens will be fine with this book, and their parents will probably be fine with it also, but for anyone younger than 12 it is not recommended by me. I liked Julius Lester’s style of writing; he got the point of the book across very pointedly and direct. Readers will walk away from “Guardian” with new knowledge.