The 57 Bus

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 17 Oct 2017

Member Reviews

On the evening of November 4, 2013, Sasha Fleishman woke up from a nap on a public bus to find that they had been set on fire. Dashka Slater's The 57 Bus is a remarkable work written for young adults that examines the factors which led to this horrifying moment and the effects it had on victim, perpetrator, and the families and friends of both.

First of all, it is incredibly impressive just how much this book manages to deal with. It addresses growing up both as a privileged, agender, white teenager and as an African American, male teenager from a rough area. It also looks at the problems associated with trying juveniles as adults, as well as the problems which can arise when categorizing a violent act as a "hate crime."

In her introduction to the book, Slater writes, "Surely it's not too late to stop things from going wrong. There must be some way to wake Sasha. Divert Richard. Get the driver to stop the bus. There must be something you can do." But the reader cannot stop time--cannot go back and fix things. All they can do is try to understand.

It would have been so easy to dismiss this incident as a hate crime and leave it at that. Instead, both Sasha (the victim) and Richard (the attacker) have backstories which are fully explored. The book does not condone Richard's actions, but these actions are now presented along with their necessary context. Slater does an outstanding job of showing that no moment can ever be black-and-white: there are always angles that are invisible at first glance.
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I was glad to get an ARC of this book. Thank you Netgalley! While I was touched by this true story I found the list of genders to be so very long. This might be off-putting or even boring to reluctant readers. I get why the author wanted the list in the book but in my opinion it would probably work better if it was located at the end of the book as a glossary or vocabulary. I will say this book is a must have for school and public libraries.
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very good book dealing with timely issues, and well written
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Excellent book presenting both sides of a criminal incident where a juvenile was charged with a hate crime. Very thought provoking
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I rarely if ever read non-fiction. When I do, it's usually memoirs. So I'll be honest: when I picked up the 57 bus I barely glanced at the back and I thought it was going to be a whodunnit thriller. But I'm kind of glad I thought that, because otherwise I would probably not have read this amazing piece of work.

I was only fourteen when the main incident described in this book occurred, and I had no idea that it had even happened until reading this book. I was horrified, but, at the same time felt pity for both Sasha and Richard. This book brings up a lot of important questions about privilege, racism, transphobia, hate crimes, and the issues revolving the juvenile justice system. I want to be a high school history teacher when I get out of college, and this book could definitely be used, with some supplemental resources, as a topic for an in-class discussion. It affected me profoundly. 

One thing that made me grossed out was the vivid description of Sasha's burns. I thought it was sufficient to just describe them as second- and third-degree burns. 

However, the main reason I took off a star was because I felt that Richard's story wasn't as fleshed out as Sasha's. I wish we could have seen more of Richard's school and home life through more eyes than just Cherie and Jasmine. I also think we could have gotten more of a feel for him if quotes from his social media accounts had been included, as they are in Sasha's, instead of just descriptions of his Facebook photos. This discrepancy really isn't by fault of the author, as I'm sure she really did try to make this account as unbiased as possible.
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The 57 Bus was an excellent read for all ages but especially teens in these times of injustice. This book does an excellent job of describing both sides of the story, providing depth while getting the message out. It was a wonderful story of forgiveness and moving on.
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The 57 Bus tells the story of an agender teen named Sasha who is lit on fire while sleeping on a bus by Richard in what some call a hate crime and in what Richard says was just a silly prank gone horribly wrong. Slater takes the reader through the events leading up to this event and then through the arrest, trial, and aftermath of that one horrific interaction.

While the events of this book are difficult to read, the story of Sasha and Richard can be one of hope and respect. The emotional arc the parents of Sasha, and Sasha as well, take throughout their ordeal is one of the most important parts of this book. Yes, they were wronged in the most horrible of ways, but they grew stronger because of it, it seems.

This is a story that can benefit kids who may be agender, trans, or anywhere else on the gender spectrum (I apologize if that's not the correct term). This story also can benefit individuals who aren't well educated or aware of these terms and the people who hold them. It's important to realize that no matter how a person identifies his/her/they sexuality/gender/romantic preferences, that we as a people love and respect everyone equally. That's all it comes down to, love and respect.
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Shocking story.  Well-written and thought provoking.  It will be an excellent conversation starter and aid for teaching tolerance in our schools and communities
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I rarely read YA non-fiction, but I made an exception for Dashka Slater’s The 57 Bus. As a librarian, I’ve been searching for ways to address social justice topics. While it’s liberal, my home state is predominantly white. Fortunately as a child I lived abroad, so I had exposure to diverse groups of people and experiences. Born and bred Vermonters don’t necessarily have that luxury. Living in a small, rural, white state is akin to existing in a bubble. And that bubble can make it challenging for residents to fully empathize with certain societal issues. Black Lives Matter is relegated to a news headline, rather than being a fully realized idea. Working with teens, my goal is to promote and increase awareness through literature. Books by their very nature are fantastic tools to foster empathy and understanding. White Vermont teens may not have direct interaction with the Black Lives Matter movement (or similar social justice topics), but they can read Angie Thomas’ thought-provoking novel “The Hate U Give. Is literature a replacement for experience? Of course not. But books do provide something. A groundwork. A reference point. And, frankly sometimes that’s the best we can do. 

On the heels of The Hate U Give and with today’s social climate, The 57 Bus comes at an ideal time. Based on the real life story of a white Oakland agender teen attacked by another teen while riding the bus, the book is both insightful and balanced. It’s easy to dismiss this incident as a hate crime perpetrated by an African American gangbanger or thug. That’s what the media did. Ms. Slater takes a different approach. Sasha (the victim) and Richard’s (the attacker) backstories are fully explored. Contrary to Nancy Grace, crimes rarely occur in a vacuum, especially those committed by juvenile offenders. Oakland itself and Richard’s backstory are paid careful consideration. And after learning about both a clearer picture emerges. One where Oakland, one of the most diverse and deeply divided cities in the country, and the criminal justice system play a role in shaping events. 

Dashka Slater could have easily formed a narrative casting Richard as our villain. That didn’t happen. Instead we’re presented with a portrait of a goofy, often quiet, but smart TEENAGER raised in poverty who desperately tries to avoid getting in trouble. Richard is no supervillain. He’s not “bad.” Or "evil." Don’t get me wrong: the book doesn’t condone or excuse his actions, but they’re provided necessary context. A favor not granted by the media who manipulated both Richard and his mother’s words by ripping away their substance to create their preferred narrative. It’s a topic also addressed in The Hate U Give. The ability of news stations to influence viewer opinion. Often, negatively. 

In addition to media criticism, The 57 Bus is also a compelling indictment of the criminal justice system. A system where Richard, despite being only 16-years-old, is tried as an adult. And being tried as an adult, he loses protections granted to juveniles such as anonymity and reasonable sentences. But perhaps most importantly, charging a teen as an adult means they end up in adult prisons. Institutions that have been statistically proven to increase antisocial behaviors rather than erase them. Basically it’s an exploration of punishment vs. rehabilitation. What’s our actual goal, especially for juvenile offenders? As a teenager, Richard’s limbic system is still developing. He physically and mentally has less impulse control than adults. He’s mentally different, but treated the same. Experts and Richard’s supervisory adults attest that he was motivated to heal and learn from his crime. An ideal candidate for Restorative Justice, a program proven to divert and prevent future criminal activity. But because he was convicted of an adult felony, this opportunity was lost. 

Again, as much as it may sound like it, the story doesn’t excuse Richard’s actions. It’s critiquing and exploring the systems that fostered this attack and the resultant legal response. In fact, Sasha and their family, publicly disagreed with the court’s decision to try Richard as an adult. Sasha and their parents seemed to have a more broad understanding of the crime, its circumstances, and repercussions than the legal system. Sasha is also provided equal narrative attention. It’s not the Richard show despite my review’s focus. The 57 Bus does a remarkably good job of explaining nonbinary gender identities and making those concepts accessible to the layperson. Both Sasha and their friends grapple with gender identity and human nature’s constant need to define ourselves. And it’s so skillfully handled that teens will undoubtedly empathize with this conflict. 

The 57 Bus presents non-fiction in a narrative format. Interspersed letters, texts, social media exchanges, and poetry further separate this work from its more dull and pedantic peers. By avoiding oversentimentality and black-and-white definition, the reader comes away with not only increased awareness, but genuine empathy for BOTH Sasha and Richard. It’s a masterful piece and one that hopefully raises the bar for YA nonfiction.
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This was an extremely well researched and written chronicle of a horrific crime, but for me, more immediate, was the authors way of clearly and compassionately exploring the lives and the perspectives of the two young people and their families. Through this text I was able to better understand the feelings an definitions of asexual, trans, non-binary sexual identities. The crime is almost secondary to all that this book is about and I would highly recommend this as a must read for all. Thank you to Dashka Slater for this very important work. Well done.
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Warning! The words "transgender and queer" show up on the first page.
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There are events in life that become gateways to the future in major ways. The fire that occurred on the 57 bus on November 4, 2013.  Two young people's lives would never be the same as a result of the decision that was made.  I appreciated the way that Slater gives a brief overview of the event before digging into the lives of Sasha and Richard (last names not shared in order to provide privacy).  By the time the author circles back to the fire and the consequences I felt like I knew and cared about both Sasha and Richard.  This depth gives the fire more meaning and makes it all the more tragic. Not only do we as readers follow the experiences of both Sasha, the one who got burned, but also Richard the one who committed the crime, but we see the event through the eyes of the media, the courts, and family and friends of both Sasha and Richard.  The author gives a nice background into Sasha's agender identity as well as a brief introduction to different sexual and gender identities, which was helpful in understanding Sasha (who the world tends to see as a young man) and why the skirt Sasha wore became a target of Richard and his two friends.

 

I found the story of Sasha and Richard and what happened to them (and where they are up to the publication of the book) rather compelling. The short chapters make this a good book for YA reluctant readers.  I think one of the most powerful aspects of the book is the author's ability to share both Sasha's experiences and Richard's.  It makes it hard to completely condemn Richard for a moment of sheer stupidity as he gives in to peer pressure as well as the unfairness of his two friends never getting charged, even though Richard wouldn't have done what he did without them egging him on.  The court system and its strengths and weaknesses play an important role in the story as does forgiveness, redemption, and second chances.  The nature of the story means that rough language, and mature content relating to gender, sexuality, and bullying all come into play, making this book most appropriate for high school and up.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC. This story was wildly compelling and meticulously told. I had somehow missed the crime when it was in the news, and I'm not sure I even knew what it was about when I requested from NetGalley. I think I had seen that it was a BEA Buzz Book. From the very beginning of the book, it grabbed me and I devoured it. It's beautiful written in a smart, journalistic style, with compassion for everyone involved. I will be thinking about these people for a long time to come.
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This was an interesting nonfiction book. There are many different things going on, many instances of social injustice.

It's the story of Sasha who doesn't identify as either a boy or girl. As a teenager, this has got to be incredibly difficult. However, Sasha is lucky to have the complete support of both parents and support systems at school. It's also the story of Richard, a black teen who lives a completely different life than Sasha. Their paths cross one afternoon on the 57 bus, and things will never be the same for either of them.

You'll feel so bad for what Sasha has to go through, but you'll also feel bad for Richard and his circumstances. Go into this one with an open mind, and be ready to honestly examine your preconceived ideas.
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Great read- shows the same situation from different perspectives.  Touches upon racial and economic divides.
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Eye-opening and fascinating information here that I never would have known. Well written and researched and presented in an engaging format. Full review on Goodreads.
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This books tells an incredibly important story. Most people will remember when this case broke out, feeling outrage at what had been done to Sasha. Outrage which of course is understandable, at learning how this child suffered. However, fewer people will remember giving a second thought to Richard. I think this book is incredibly important because it tells the story from both sides. Having worked with many youths like Richard as a social worker, and now continuing my career and a researcher focused on adolescent development, the break down in this book about adolescent brains and adolescent thinking is so important. People tend not to realize (or to forget) that adolescents really do think differently than adults because their brains are literally not fully developed! Additionally, this book offers a much needed critique on how teenagers are currently treated in the legal system, especially teenagers of color. (I recently wrote a chapter on adolescents in juvenile justice settings, which will be coming out in the next edition of The Oxford Handbook of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. For more information on some of the subjects covered in this book, I recommend you take a look at that).
Unfortunately, although the message of this book was very important, I did not greatly enjoy the writing style. At times the book felt like it was being written as a novel, and at times I felt like I was reading a textbook. The narrative also alternated from 3rd person perspective to 2nd person perspective in a way that felt choppy. I understand this may have been a stylistic choice, but it did not seem to flow in my opinion. Rather, the book often felt as if a style had not been fully chosen and instead jumped arbitrarily from one style to another. This made it difficult, especially, to understand who the intended audience of the book was. As a novel, this book has the potential to be read by many teenagers, who are going to benefit the most from this story. However, when it feels like a textbook, this is more likely to be off-putting to many adolescents. 
I would still recommend this book to many of the youth I work with, since they are the ones who are like Richard. Minority youth who have already been through the system, who are impulsive, and who don't realize the full potential consequences of their actions. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if the way this book is written would keep the attention of these same youths.
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Wow. And double wow. The 57 Bus takes the reader into the true story about two teenagers whose lives intersect one day on a public bus. After a terrifying incident, one teen suffers from horrific burns while the other is charged with a hate crime. Yet, the story isn't as black and white as it seems on the surface. Furthermore, the villain is not as easily defined as one would think. A well-researched, can't put down read.
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I did not finish this book. I was screening it to be a nonfiction selection for our 2017 Top 10 list, but I did not like how it was constructed.
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With gender identity issues so prominent in the news these days, this is a very timely book.I work at a small liberal arts college at which we make a point of embracing this problem, and attempt to make our campus a safe place for students of all genders and sexual orientation. I would love to have this author visit our community.
That Slater approached the story from the sides of both the perpetrator and the victim without judgement made it especially humanizing. It was an amazing lesson of compassion and understanding.
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