Gr 7 Up-Contemporary Medell'n, Colombia, is the setting for this unsettling and largely uncompromising portrayal of the life and death of Sonny, a small 13-year-old boy lost in pursuit of machismo. A grade-school dropout whose life has been twisted by poverty, he watches enviously as his menacing best friend, Alberto, lives large after being recruited by El Fantasma, a drug lord, for what become almost routine assassinations. Sonny's first hit, like Alberto's, is of a bound and gagged victim who is already being tortured, and is critiqued thusly: "You're enthusiastic. I like that in my sicarios. Maybe you were a little generous with the bullets, but the sucker had it coming." Sonny's life had previously been about "music, money, Jesus Christ, and soccer," but by the end of the book, he is caught in his own inevitable death spiral. The climax reveals unexpected depth and resonance from the ironic title. The taut story line subtly illustrates the many levels of personal, social, and political costs of the shocking violence created and perpetuated by the largely U.S.-driven international drug trade. At times the narrative sounds as if it were translated into an odd, if colloquial, English, and it occasionally drags a bit, but on the whole, the book will interest and educate readers about a world they might know nothing of otherwise. While references to smoking grass, drinking, and the violence itself might seem to limit this title to mature teen readers, the presentation makes this awful world accessible to younger readers, as well.-Joel Shoemaker, Southeast Junior High School, Iowa City, IA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.