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Publisher's Summary

From award-winning, best-selling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful young-adult novel in verse about a boy who is wrongfully incarcerated. Perfect for fans of the Noughts & Crosses series and The Hate U Give

One fateful night, an altercation in a gentrifying neighbourhood escalates into tragedy. ‘Boys just being boys’ turns out to be true only when those boys are white. 

Suddenly, at just 16 years old, Amal Shahid’s bright future is upended: he is convicted of a crime he didn’t commit and sent to prison. Despair and rage almost sink him until he turns to the refuge of his words, his art. This never should have been his story. But can he change it? 

With spellbinding lyricism, award-winning author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam tell a moving and deeply profound story about how one boy is able to maintain his humanity and fight for the truth in a system designed to strip him of both.

©2020 Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam (P)2020 HarperCollins Publishers Limited

Critic Reviews

"Zoboi and Salaam have created nothing short of a masterwork of humanity, with lyrical arms big enough to cradle the oppressed and metaphoric teeth sharp enough to chomp on the bitter bones of racism. This is more than a story. This is a necessary exploration of anger, and a radical reflection of love, which ultimately makes for an honest depiction of what it means to be young and Black in America." (Jason Reynolds, award-winning, best-selling author of Long Way Down)

"Punching the Air is the profound sound of humanity in verse. About a boy who uses his creative mind to overcome the creativity of racism. About a boy who uses the freedom of art to overcome his incarceration. About you. About me. Utterly indispensable." (Ibram X. Kendi, National Book Award-winning and number one New York Times best-selling author of Stamped and How to Be an Antiracist)

"In this beautifully rendered book, we are reminded again of how brilliant and precarious our Black Lives are and how art can ultimately heal us." (Jacqueline Woodson, award-winning, best-selling author of Brown Girl Dreaming

What listeners say about Punching the Air

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  • Mandy
  • 06-14-21

Superb narrator

This is a powerful and moving book made even better by the superb narration by Ethan Herisse. It tells the story of Amal who is sent to a juvenile facility after seriously injuring another boy in a public brawl. The problem is that he might have thrown the first punch but certainly not the one that put the other boy into a coma. The book focuses on institutional racism and everything that works to tear black boys down. Highly recommended

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  • Anonymous User
  • 12-07-20

My review.

It is beautifully written. It's a powerful story of finding hope in a world of injustice.

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  • Alex Keeler
  • 11-12-20

Thought provoking

My first book on audible- I have never listened or read such a book written in a way to sound as prose- beautifully written and really creates a connection with the character

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  • J T Nicholls
  • 10-13-20

Beautiful

Loved this book, found the writing utterly compelling aided by the mesmeric narration. Thoroughly recommend this book to everyone.

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  • Sarah A
  • 09-16-20

THIS WILL STAY WITH ME FOR YEARS TO COME...

In a time where injustice against Black people is being called out and the people are demanding change now more than ever before, this book is a stark reminder of the lives that are being ruined. This book is a reminder that a teenager pays the price of actions he did not commit simply because of the colour of his skin. I remember taking an interest in the Central Park Jogger case early last year. Researching it and then watching the Netflix series was a painful reminder of how damaged our justice systems are. Even in the past few months, as defunding for police institutions due to their inherent racism has risen drastically, we are reminded there is much work to be done. This book is hope. This book is a reminder to not let the system win. This book with it’s beautiful prose is a must read for many of our youth. Incarceration is something many of us will never experience. But this book transports into the life of young Amal as he tries to find a middle ground in his situation. By using poetry and art, Amal tries to navigate his justified anger at being wrongfully accused. I wish we got to see more of what happened. But i don’t think that was the intention of the book. Overall, this was a quick and heartbreaking read that I highly recommend to you all❤️