Tells the true story of an agender teen who was set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland, a crime that focuses on the concepts of race, class, gender, crime, and punishment. - (Baker & Taylor)
Documents the true story of two Oakland high school students, a white girl from a privileged private school and a black youth from a school overshadowed by crime, whose fateful interaction triggered devastating consequences for both, garnering national attention and raising awareness about hate. By the author of The Sea Serpent and Me. Simultaneous eBook. - (Baker & Taylor)
A New York Times Bestseller - (McMillan Palgrave)
Stonewall Book Award Winner—Mike Morgan & Larry Romans Children's & Young Adult Literature Award
YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults Finalist
One teenager in a skirt.
One teenager with a lighter.
One moment that changes both of their lives forever.
If it weren’t for the 57 bus, Sasha and Richard never would have met. Both were high school students from Oakland, California, one of the most diverse cities in the country, but they inhabited different worlds. Sasha, a white teen, lived in the middle-class foothills and attended a small private school. Richard, a black teen, lived in the crime-plagued flatlands and attended a large public one. Each day, their paths overlapped for a mere eight minutes. But one afternoon on the bus ride home from school, a single reckless act left Sasha severely burned, and Richard charged with two hate crimes and facing life imprisonment. The case garnered international attention, thrusting both teenagers into the spotlight.
This riveting nonfiction book for teens about race, class, gender, crime, and punishment tells the true story of an agender teen who was set on fire by another teen while riding a bus in Oakland, California. - (McMillan Palgrave)
Slater handles the sensitive subject matter of adolescence, hate crimes, the juvenile justice system, and the intersection of race and class with exemplary grace and emotional connection. Sasha, a genderqueer teen riding the 57 bus, was asleep when Richard Thomas, an African American teen, decided to play a prank by playing with a lighter by her skirt. But the skirt caught fire. Sasha spent grueling amounts of time in a hospital burn unit, and Richard spent the rest of his high-school career mired in a long trial and awaiting sentencing. In this true-crime tale, Slater excels at painting a humanistic view of both Sasha and Richard, especially in the aftermath of the crime. Readers will enjoy that Sasha's life is completely developed, while other readers may have a few unresolved questions surrounding Richard's upbringing. Ultimately, this book will give readers a better understanding of gender nonbinary people and a deep empathy for how one rash action can irrevocably change lives forever. Copyright 2017 Booklist Reviews.
American crime story
In this true story of two teenagers from different sides of Oakland, California, and the bus ride that leaves one of them severely burned and the other facing criminal charges, award-winning journalist and author Dashka Slater chips away at the binaries that frame our understanding of the world. Sasha, a white genderqueer high school student, was wearing a skirt on the bus when Richard, a black student from a struggling neighborhood, set Sasha’s skirt on fire. The genre-bending story that follows is no simple morality tale, as it reveals the tangled complexities of gender, race, crime, justice and hope in America. Bird’s-eye views of Oakland and official statistics are spliced together with instant messages, social media posts and other primary sources. Emphasizing the interconnected nature of humanity, Slater reveals her characters and their web of relationships with deftness and fluidity.
The 57 Bus does what all great books do—reveals our world to us anew.
This article was originally published in the November 2017 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.
Copyright 2017 BookPage Reviews.
Horn Book Guide Reviews
In 2013, on the 57 bus in Oakland, California, African American Richard, egged on by friends, set white, genderqueer Sasha's gauzy skirt on fire. Sasha survived but sustained third-degree burns; Richard was arrested for a hate crime. Using interviews, court documents, and news accounts, Slater has crafted a compelling true-crime story that goes beyond the headlines to tell the very human stories behind these individuals and their families. Copyright 2018 Horn Book Guide Reviews.
Horn Book Magazine Reviews
It was late afternoon on Monday, November 4, 2013. Sasha was napping on the 57 bus in Oakland, California, when Richard, egged on by friends, set their gauzy skirt on fire. (Sasha is genderqueer and prefers the pronoun they.) Sasha survived, but sustained third-degree burns on their calves and thighs. The incident was captured on video cameras installed in the bus, and the next day Richard was arrested for a hate crime and processed in the justice system. From the start, the deck was stacked against Richard, an African American teenager with a criminal history, who had now committed a horrific crime that grabbed media attention, caused national outrage, and fomented local protests. Slater goes beyond the headlines to tell the very human stories behind these individuals and their families (although it's clear she did not have as much personal access to Richard as she did to Sasha). It's a powerful story of class and race (Sasha is white), gender and identity, justice and mercy, love and hate. Using interviews, court documents, and news accounts, Slater has crafted a compelling true-crime story with ramifications for our most vulnerable youth. jonathan hunt Copyright 2017 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.
In the fall of 2013, on a bus ride home, a young man sets another student on fire.In a small private high school, Sasha, a white teen with Asperger's, enjoyed "a tight circle of friends," "blazed through calculus, linguistics, physics, and computer programming," and invented languages. Sasha didn't fall into a neat gender category and considered "the place in-between…a real place." Encouraged by parents who supported self-expression, Sasha began to use the pronoun they. They wore a skirt for the first time during their school's annual cross-dressing day and began to identify as genderqueer. On the other side of Oakland, California, Richard, a black teen, was "always goofing around" at a high school where roughly one-third of the students failed to graduate. Within a few short years, his closest friends would be pregnant, in jail, or shot dead, but Richard tried to stay out of real trouble. One fateful day, Sasha was asleep in a "gauzy white skirt" on the 57 bus when a r owdy friend handed Richard a lighter. With a journalist's eye for overlooked details, Slater does a masterful job debunking the myths of the hate-crime monster and the African-American thug, probing the line between adolescent stupidity and irredeemable depravity. Few readers will traverse this exploration of gender identity, adolescent crime, and penal racism without having a few assumptions challenged. An outstanding book that links the diversity of creed and the impact of impulsive actions to themes of tolerance and forgiveness. (Nonfiction. 14-18) Copyright Kirkus 2017 Kirkus/BPI Communications. All rights reserved.
Publishers Weekly Reviews
Journalist and author Slater (Escargot) offers a riveting account of the events that preceded and followed a 2013 assault in Oakland, Calif. Both Sasha (a white, agender private school teenager) and Richard (an African-American public school student who had lost numerous loved ones to murder) rode the 57 bus every day. One afternoon, Richard—egged on by friends—lit the sleeping Sasha's skirt on fire, and the resulting blaze left third-degree burns over 22% of Sasha's body. Sixteen-year-old Richard was arrested and charged as an adult with committing a hate crime. The short, easily digestible chapters take a variety of forms, including narrative, poetry, lists (including terms for gender, sex, sexuality, and romantic inclinations), text-message conversations, and Richard's heartrending letters of apology to Sasha. Using details gleaned from interviews, social media, surveillance video, public records, and other sources, Slater skillfully conveys the complexities of both young people's lives and the courage and compassion of their families, friends, and advocates, while exploring the challenges and moral ambiguities of the criminal justice system. This painful story illuminates, cautions, and inspires. Ages 12–up. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)
Copyright 2017 Publisher Weekly.
School Library Journal Reviews
Gr 6 Up—On November 4, 2013, Sasha, a high school senior from Oakland, CA, was napping on the 57 bus home from school. Shortly thereafter, Richard, another Oakland teen, boarded the bus with his two friends. When the trio's jokes took a dark turn, Richard's and Sasha's lives were forever changed. Slater, who originally covered the crime for the New York Times magazine, here breaks down the series of events into short and effective chapters, divided into four parts: "Sasha," "Richard," "The Fire," and "Justice." By investigating the lives of these two teens, their backgrounds, their friends and families, and the circumstances that led to that fateful day on the bus, Slater offers readers a grounded and balanced view of a horrific event. There is much baked into the story of these intersecting lives that defies easy categorization, including explorations of gender identity, the racial and class divisions that separate two Oakland neighborhoods, the faults and limits of the justice system, the concept of restorative justice, and the breadth of human cruelty, guilt, and forgiveness. With clarity and a journalist's sharp eye for crucial details, Slater explains preferred pronouns; the difference between gender and sex as well as sexuality and romance; and the intricacies of California's criminal justice process. The text shifts from straightforward reporting to lyrical meditations, never veering into oversentimentality or simple platitudes. Readers are bound to come away with deep empathy for both Sasha and Richard. VERDICT Slater artfully unfolds a complex and layered tale about two teens whose lives intersect with painful consequences. This work will spark discussions about identity, community, and what it means to achieve justice.—Kiera Parrott, School Library Journal
Copyright 2017 School Library Journal.
Voice of Youth Advocates Reviews
One fall day in 2013, Richard and Sasha were strangers taking the public bus home from school, as they had done many times before. This time, Richard's friends convinced him that lighting Sasha's gauzy skirt with a match would be funny. It was not, and both of their lives changed forever. In The 57 Bus, Slater comprehensively tells the stories of their pasts (Richard, a poor African-American from Oakland; Sasha, a well-to-do nonbinary teen with Asperger's syndrome) and the legal issues that followed. The reader does not get to know Sarah deeply in this sprawling account, and that seems to be the intent, for she admits to wanting people to be "confused" by her, to be unable to understand her. Richard, meanwhile, a troubled teenager who does a stupid thing, is presented as a victim. Slater's journalistic style and political bent keep the characters at a distance. The book's first half examines each character's upbringing, illustrating the childhoods of two very different people. The last half, concerning the legal machinations after the crime, demonstrates the author's desire to create changes in American values and the criminal justice system. She does not present, however, the steps that might lead toward such changes. As a result, the book may provoke more anger and frustration than understanding. It is likely that this account will spark conversations, debates, and contemplation, perhaps leading readers to define for themselves what justice means. If readers remember this story and the two teens at the center of it, then The 57 Bus will create awareness about the important issues surrounding the event that day on the bus.—Jim Nicosia. 3Q 3P S Copyright 2017 Voya Reviews.