The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater
Hi, I am Sarah. I am fourteen years old and an avid reader; it is one of my favorite things to do. Inspired by authors’ creations of magnificent places and surprising havens built by simple letters, I aspire to be an author and, meanwhile, nurture the love to write.
At first, it seemed like a simple crime – Richard lit Sascha’s skirt on fire. Sascha ended up in the hospital with second-and-third-degree burns; Richard to the state penitentiary facing the possibility of life imprisonment.
But if you dig deeper, look a little closer, you’ll see it’s more than that. And that’s exactly what Dashka Slater does. First, you get to know Sascha: an agender teen from Oakland, attending a tiny prep school, analytical, and has been making up languages since the age of 7 or 8. Then you have Richard: an African-American teen from the same city but a rougher neighborhood, a junior at the local high school, a big hugger, and by age 16 having lost two family members and three close friends to murder. Then you have the crime itself: an impulsive decision with grave consequences.
While in prison, Richard wrote to Sascha, “I am not a thug, gangster, hoodlum, nor monster. I’m a young African American male who’s made a terrible mistake.” He was originally charged as an adult, with two felonies with hate crime clauses that increased his prison sentence. But he didn’t feel like that was quite right. He didn’t hate Sascha. Sascha and their family didn’t hate Richard, either. And of course, there were the millions of opinions made clear from the public – so many sides to the same story.
The 57 Bus is a masterful examination of an apparently straightforward crime, delving deeper into each side and getting to the root of the story, questioning what qualities are human, and at what point a mistake becomes unforgivable.