Sam is a slacker, and over the last two years has perfected these seven rules to stay invisible: 1. Don't be late to class, 2. Don't screw around, 3. Don't ever look the teacher in the eye, 4. Don't ever look a classmate in the eye, 5. Develop your blank stare, 6. Don't ever raise your hand, and 7. Listen. No one sits by Sam in class. He's fine with it until one fateful day Luis comes and sits next to Sam. Luis has a four inch scar on his neck, and there are rumors he is in a gang. Luis ends up in all the same classes as Sam, sitting next to him in all of them. There is a brief interaction between them on that first day. Both of them act like the other isn't there. When their English teacher, Cassidy, starts calling on both of them in class it's hard not to stay invisible. They start a poetry unit in their English class, and in a few weeks there will be a slam poetry contest. Cassidy has Luis and Sam work together. Luis suggests they work on it at his place. When fellow members of the gang Luis's brother is in come looking for his brother, Sam gets scared and runs off not wanting to go back there. After a few days Luis convinces Sam to come back so they can nail this poetry assignment. The day before the presentation in class there is a huge gang fight at lunch with several students suspended. When Sam hears this he thinks Luis is among the suspended. On the day of the presentation Luis leaves his part of the poem on a CD with a note saying he'll explain everything when the time is right. They nail the presentation, even with Luis not there. Sam gets worried when he doesn't hear from Luis over the weekend and the days following the presentation. Sam mouths off to a teacher and gets suspended for the rest of the week. He uses that time to try and find Luis. When he comes up empty he turns to a few classmates and a few teachers to help him.
I enjoyed this book. I loved the poetry that was interspersed between some of the chapters. I also liked the author addressing the fact of being related to a gang member and having scars automatically makes that person a gang member. The ending is a sad, and I had tears in my eyes. I wasn't really expecting a sad ending. Who would think that a story of two teenagers working on slam poetry for English class could turn out to be sad? This book is on the YALSA 2014 Best Fiction for Young Adults list.