"A gripping story that is never preachy
and presents powerful, all-too-real conflicts."
— Publishers Weekly
"The author of Street Pharm exposes
another teenage counterculture, realistically depicting
the world of the gangbanger and the insidious nature of
lifelong protection, with no escape. Julia and Eric are
poignant, authentic characters in a continuously looping,
real-life tragedy. Although their stories offer hope, their
friends are not so lucky. Snitch presents an important object
lesson for today's teens."
"Van Diepen is brilliant in weaving
this complex story and writing with such an authentic voice.
No doubt her experience teaching in Brooklyn contributes
to her crafting a realistic story and in capturing Julia's
inner struggles beautifully."
— Young Adult Books
5 Stars! —
"Van Diepen creates a gritty tale
that reveals the uneasy life of a teenager in inner-city
Brooklyn. Slang, street talk, and contemporary hip-hop references
flow naturally out of the characters' mouths, giving their
voices-and the novel-an authentic tone. The book is easy
to read, full of atmosphere and action, with a swift plot
and a ferocity that will draw in reluctant readers."
“People always make it sound like God is a man. But we’ve
got no proof of that.”
Everybody gasped. Then a few snickers and giggles.
I felt myself blush, but I hurried on. “The whole idea
of God looking like a man is a European concept. Back in Ancient
Greece – ”
“You saying God is a girl?” Eddie Evans shouted.
“So God’s got titties and a – ”
The class erupted in laughter.
I kicked my volume up. “No, that’s not what I’m
saying. God is not male or female.”
“You saying God is a transvestite?” Jay shouted from
the back row.
“Not a transvestite, dumbass, a hermaphrodite,” Cassie
said. “That’s when you got a package and a coochie.”
Ms. Howard’s face reddened. I didn’t know if she
was going to pass out or go postal. She yelled at everyone to
settle down, but no one paid attention. She turned on me. “Just
hand in your paper and sit down. We’ve heard enough.”
“You’re not gonna let me present it? I spent a lot
of time on this.”
“Too bad you didn’t choose a more appropriate topic.”
“But this was one of the choices you gave us! It was topic
seven – explore how different cultures – ”
“Sit down,” she snapped.
Knowing when to shut up wasn’t usually a problem for me,
but I heard myself saying, “This isn’t fair. You’re
the one who assigned the topic.”
The class went “oooooohhhh.”
“Go to the dean, Julia.”
The class was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop. As everybody
watched, I picked up my books and stalked out. You really should
have seen her face. She didn't think that A-student Julia DiVino
would dare stand up to her.
My legs felt like jelly, probably more from the stress of the
situation than anything else. Dad was going to kick my ass if
he had to take off work to go to a suspension hearing. Or would
he be proud that I stuck to my guns? I doubted it.
I surprised myself by heading toward the bathroom on my way to
the dean’s office. I guess I needed a few minutes to let
the redness in my cheeks go down.
knew Diana the bathroom lady. She was in her forties, with bleached
blonde hair and heavy metal tattoos. Her job was to spend her
entire day outside the girls' bathroom making sure nothing nasty
was happening – no drugs, no fights… no suicides.
“Hey there, baby.” Diana reached out to receive my
bathroom pass but I shook my head.
“I don't have one.”
“I’ve been sent to the dean’s office by Ms.
Howard but I want a minute to...”
“Go ahead, sweetie.”
Our bathrooms were like a mini Brooklyn housing project, littered
with trash and covered in graffiti. The graffiti was mostly gang
stuff: RLB rock da house, Hermanas Mexicalis is bad bitches, Crab
girls got crabs. The worst culprits were the school’s biggest
girl gang, the RLB, aka the Real Live Bitches. I’d spent
lots of toilet-sittings deciphering their codes. All you needed
to know was a little pig Latin and a little Creole and you could
crack pretty much any code.
I splashed cold water on my face and let it spike my lashes and
dribble into my eyes. The shock of the water made me feel a bit
better. I patted my face dry with those scraping brown paper towels,
careful not to smear my (thankfully waterproof) mascara. Running
my fingers through my hair, I headed out to face the dean, thanking
Diana as I left.
I jumped when I heard the voice behind me. Turned out it was
Black Chuck. “Chuck, what up?”
“I told you, don’t call me Chuck. I’m going
by Black now.”
“What kind of a name is Black?”
“My kind of name, Ju.”
I rolled my eyes. “I told you not to call me that. Everybody’s
going to think I’m Jewish.”
“So? Nothing wrong with that, is there?”
“’Course not, but – ”
“No butts. Only asses. So where we going, Ju? Don't tell
me you cutting. Not Miss DiVino. You got a sub in Jackson's class?”
“Actually, she sent me to see the dean.”
“I’m serious. It’s because I said in my speech
that God wasn’t a man and didn’t have a package. She
Black Chuck burst out laughing. “I got you. Well, if they
gonna suspend your ass, I'll walk you down there.”
He dropped me off outside the office. As he walked away, I shouted
over my shoulder, “Your pants are falling down.”
He shouted back, “Damn right they are!”
The dean’s office was a large space with about a dozen
orange plastic chairs and several connecting rooms. It used to
be guidance central, but the admin switched the offices when it
realized that more students needed suspensions than programming
I’d always felt sorry for the poor suckers who got sent
here. Today I was one of them, along with a hot Hispanic guy who
sat outside Dean Hallett’s door.
The guy lifted his eyes, meeting mine. I looked away quickly,
sitting down two seats away from him. I felt him giving me a once-over
before looking back down at his MP3.
Just my luck, Hallett was on duty today. She was the strictest
of the deans. I took a deep breath, wondering what she’d
do to me.
The guy didn’t seem worried. He was nodding his head to
“Is it too loud?” he asked, removing one of his earphones.
“No, it’s fine,” I said, without looking at
I was hoping he’d put the earphone back in and go back
to minding his business, but he kept looking at me. “So,
you in trouble or something?”
“Well, I am in the dean’s office.”
“That doesn’t mean anything. I’m just here
to get my I.D. card.” I glanced at him. His smile was smooth,
“Not me, unfortunately.”
“I feel you. I’ve been at the dean’s office
myself a few times at my old school.”
Okay, so I had to ask. “What school’s that?”
“You wouldn’t know it unless you know Detroit.”
“Detroit, huh? I hear that place is gangsta. Guess you
won’t have trouble getting used to Brooklyn.”
“No trouble at all.”
“How’d you end up in Brooklyn?”
he couldn’t answer, because that’s when Hallett’s
door opened. She was a heavyset woman who looked at you like you
were a suspect, kind of like S. Epatha Merkerson on Law and Order.
“Hi, Eric, come on in.” Her eyes landed on me. “Was
there something I could help you with, Julia?”
“Uh, well… Ms. Howard wanted me to speak to you.”
“All right. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
She let him into her office and closed the door.
I sighed. Wait until she found out why I was there.