VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) Magazine Review

VOYA, June 2017 (Vol. 40, No. 2) - Jamie Hansen

At 7 p.m. on May 22, 1995, in the Los Angeles suburb of Agoura Hills, seventeen-year-old Mike McLoren and sixteen-year-old Jimmy Farris were exercising outside Mike's backyard fort when four boys jumped the fence into the yard. A brawl broke out in which Mike and Jimmy were both stabbed; Jimmy died a short time later, changing many lives forever. Prosecutors described the boys as "gang members" participating in a robbery gone wrong, while the media fueled rumors of all-out gang violence threatening the affluent community. Jimmy's death became a first-degree murder because it occurred during what prosecutors called an attempt to steal Mike's marijuana. Suddenly, the teens faced life sentences without possibilities of parole. Porinchak, a long-time advocate for incarcerated teens, has produced a fine addition to the new Simon True series. Avoiding sensationalism, she carefully unravels both the conflicting accounts of the incident and the complexities of the subsequent hearings and trials, exposing the flaws of the legal and penal systems. With admirable clarity and impartiality, the author reveals how a frightening combination of reckless behavior, media-fueled fear, prosecutorial fervor, and societal attitudes deprived four teens of their constitutional rights. Carefully and thoroughly researched with strong reliance on original sources, including court documents, trial transcripts, and interviews, this exceptional book belongs in all libraries serving teens. It is also an essential text for those who work with young people in any capacity. Reviewer: Jamie Hansen; Ages 12 to 18.


Porinchak recounts how the legal system fails five teens who commit a serious crime. 

The May 22, 1995, brawl in a white suburb of Los Angeles that resulted in the death of one teen and the injury of another is related matter-of-factly. The account of the police investigation, the judicial process, and the ultimate incarceration of the five boys is more passionately argued. Since the story focuses on the teens’ experiences following the brawl, minimal attention is given to Jimmy Farris, who died, although the testimony of Mike McLoren, who survived, is crucial. The book opens with a comprehensive dramatis personae that will help orient readers, and the text is liberally punctuated by quotes drawn from contemporary newspaper and magazine coverage as well as interviews with several of the key figures, including three of the accused. Porinchak argues that the proceedings were influenced by the high-profile 1994 trial and acquittal of the Menendez brothers, and unfounded accusations of gang involvement further clouded the matter. Despite the journalistic style, there is clear intent to elicit sympathy for the five boys involved, three of whom were sentenced to life without parole; of two, the text remarks that “they were numbers now, not humans.” 

This is clearly not unbiased reporting, but it makes a strong case that justice in our legal system does not always fit the crime. (Nonfiction. 14-18)

Read the review here

School library journal review

School Library Journal, 06/01/2017

Gr 8 Up--On May 22, 1995, teenagers Jimmy Farris and Mike McLoren were hanging out in McLoren's backyard when four other boys from their high school--Jason and Micah Holland, Tony Miliotti, and Brandon Hein--hopped the fence onto the McLoren property. Twenty minutes later, Farris lay dead in the McLoren kitchen from multiple stab wounds, while McLoren was taken to the hospital for cuts. The once quiet community of Agoura Hills, CA, was shattered by Farris's death, and the ensuing media circus did nothing to help the images of the five boys arrested (another, Chris Velardo, who wasn't present at the scene of the crime was also locked up). The prosecution built its case on flimsy eyewitness accounts and blatant hearsay, and at the end of the lengthy trial, four out of the five boys were convicted of first-degree murder. Porinchak carefully exposes some of the failings of the trial, including the biased presiding judge and the selection of jurors who personally knew the victims' families. The narrative keeps the details of what really happened vague, adding to the mystery of the case. Ultimately, this is a story of how four lives were forever disrupted because of prejudice and a flawed judicial system. VERDICT A solid purchase for teen collections where true crime is popular; an additional purchase otherwise.--Tyler Hixson, School Library Journal


Publishers Weekly

A new line of YA nonfiction from Simon Pulse called Simon True, which launches in May with two titles, will chronicle actual crime stories involving real teens who have faced the very real consequences of their illegal actions. Written with a “you-are-there” immediacy rather than from an historical perspective, the books catapult readers into a moment when a single decision – invariably a bad one – forever changed teens’ lives. Simon True debuts with One Cut by Eve Porinchak and Deep Water by Katherine Nichols, which will be released simultaneously in hardcover, paperback, and e-book.

Read the article here

School Library Journal

Salacious headlines, disturbing details, and stories tinged with scandal. While true crime is often associated with the prurient and the voyeuristic, a trio of new titles prove that the genre is far more nuanced. These books challenge teens to open their eyes to the realities of the justice system, to exhibit compassion, and to be conscious of the inequities that so often lead to crime—in sum, to be perceptive, sensitive members of society.

Read the article here

Like The Outsiders? Try This!

If you’re a fan of The Outsiders like I am, then you NEED to try One Cut by Eve Porinchak. One Cut is based on a true story. I repeat, the crime in this one is REAL. Everything you love about The Outsiders, the thrill, violence, and cautionary tale, also rings true in One Cut with the added horrifying bonus of having actually happened. Just read the summary, if it doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. 

Read the article here


Five Reasons To Read One Cut

Eve Porinchak’s book, One Cut, part of the Simon True series, details the events of the crime and trial that followed it, and the ways it dramatically affected the lives of everyone involved. One Cut is a heartbreaking and fascinating story, and I found myself shaken by it, so much so that I felt compelled to put together a list of reasons why you should read it too.

Read the article here


From the Riveted Lit editorial board