Young adult novels aren't known for their subtlety, so it's tough to judge Playground as a Great Work of American Literature, but so far, it's pretty darn good! A few observations:
There's profanity in here!
Chapter 2 begins, "I know Liz had already conferred with the school principal and my mom and all that s---," and a few more s-bombs arrive in the subsequent handful of pages. Is this a more realistic take on how kids really talk to each other? Sure, but maybe this thing should come with a PG-13 rating. We can only imagine the chorus of "oooooohhhs" that would erupt if a kid read this out loud in class.
This adolescent kid makes some pretty mature references.
"When I got to school that morning, I felt ready for anything, like Bruce Lee, James Coburn, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar all rolled into one large-ass pair of pants." James Coburn? No LeBron James? OK, so Playground isn't set in 2011.
50 Cent's introduction to the book shut us up.
We mocked 50 for writing from the perspective of the bully -- mostly because he's still sort of a bully -- but in a few short paragraphs he did some real explaining: "I've also been a bully," he writes. "I know how a person gets to be like that. That's why I wanted to tell this story: to show a kid who has become a bully -- how and why that happened, and whether or not he can move past it."
- 50 Cent