The Real Education of TJ Crowley

Young Adult - Coming of Age
382 Pages
Reviewed on 09/03/2020
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Tiffany Ferrell for Readers' Favorite

The year 1968 was a difficult one for Timothy James Crowley. It began with his father separating from his mother and moving far away. Unable to deal with their mother's declining mental health and cruel behavior, TJ’s brother Ronnie joins the army and is sent off to serve in Vietnam. Just when TJ thinks that his situation can’t get any worse, a black family moves in next door, causing his racist mother to become unhinged. TJ is taught to see black people as his mother did, which is unequal and untrustworthy. This starts to change when he enters middle school and is introduced to kids from other areas of Wichita. One person that he finds himself curious about is his next-door neighbor Ivy. While school is a challenge with new integration laws, life at home gets worse when a strange uncle shows up to look after the house and to get rid of their new neighbors by any means necessary.

I found The Real Education of TJ Crowley an eye-opening coming of age book for young adults. Author Grant Overstake takes us back to the late 60s to a town that is adjusting to integration and changes the civil rights movement brought. We see how some people are supportive and believe in equality and then you have TJ’s mother who is very racist. Many of her beliefs are the only things that TJ knows when it comes to black people. I like how the more the main character is around peers that aren’t the same race as he is, the more he begins to question the morals that his mother and her old flame believe in. The characters are very well written and relatable, and the overall plot is very gripping. The Real Education of TJ Crowley by Grant Overstake is a book I would definitely recommend to others.