Punching the Air bookcover

Punching the Air

Ibi Zoboi, Yusef Salaam


From award-winning, bestselling author Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of the Exonerated Five comes a powerful YA 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 sixteen 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.

Latest reviews

Written in free verse, this story is easy to follow. Anyone reading this couldn't fail to feel incensed at the injustice faced by the protagonist. An eye-opening read and suitable for 13+.

I enjoyed the book very much - I was apprehensive at first since it is written in verse, but this meant that the 400 pages moved very swiftly and didn't feel like you were picking up a tome to get through it. The subject matter is gripping and you had a real sense of engagement with the characters and their situations. I would recommend it to others, but there is a vast amount of swearing in it, which raises the recommended reading age for me.

Loved it.

Powerful: hard-hitting and excellently written.

Great book

One of the most important YA books I have ever read. A must read, regardless of age.

A powerful novel in verse about art, injustice, systemic racism and gentrification.

The Reading Agency

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