Justice, injustice explored in ‘Endangered’

Save the whales!

You’ve read a lot of signs like that in your life, online and real-time. Save the whales or the environment, penguins or tigers, fish, trees or grasses, there’s always something about to disappear, and you know that when it’s gone, it’s gone.

But what about people? Aren’t they in trouble, too? In the new book “Endangered” by Jean Love Cush, who’s going to save young black men?

Janae Williams had always told her son Malik not to run when the cops came. It was worse if you did, she said. So while he was hanging out on a Philadelphia street corner with his friends and sirens came their way, Malik stood still — and was arrested for the murder of a boy he knew.

But, of course, Malik didn’t do it. Janae knew that her son was innocent. He was just 15 years old, a good-enough student, her baby. She’d raised him right — his father certainly had no hand in it — and Malik wasn’t capable of killing.

Still, he was in jail and the court system was a maze that Janae couldn’t quite figure out. She wanted Malik home, no matter what — even if it took putting her trust in an unusual source who claimed he could help her son.

When Calvin Moore left the ‘hood, he closed the door. He’d always had his sights on law school, power, money, a good life. He’d been at a big Philadelphia law firm for several years and was on track to make partner soon — so when his boss asked his assistance with a pro bono case for a nonprofit, Calvin was reluctant. The Center for the Protection of Human Rights didn’t want his experience; of that, he was sure. All they wanted was his black face to represent.

Known for around-the-globe humanitarian work, Roger Whitford always wanted to make a difference, and his organization was poised to do it. They just needed a case that was right, one he could defend in court in a way that would force nation-wide revisions for black boys within the justice system.

Roger had an audacious plan, and the case against Malik Williams was perfect…

Talk about good timing.

With its focus on justice and its characters’ shouts for legal change, “Endangered” may be the most relevant book you’ll read this year. Be aware, though: author Jean Love Cush, who has a background in law, loads controversy inside her story.

And yet, this drama isn’t all just courtroom-based. Cush’s characters are created with razor-sharpness and put in gut-wrenching situations. She then offers statistics (real ones) to support her story — shocking stats about African-American education, crime, society and justice that move the story along, enhance its most memorable parts and pull readers even further in. All I can say is “wow.”

The cover of this book looks like it might be for middle-schoolers, but that’s incorrect; its audience is definitely 16 or older. If that’s you, and you’re open to one impressive thought-provoker, “Endangered” is a book to save time for.

View publishes Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of books for children and teens weekly.

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