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A Different Kind of Heat    by Antonio Pagliarulo order for
Different Kind of Heat
by Antonio Pagliarulo
Order:  USA  Can
Delacorte, 2006 (2006)
* * *   Reviewed by J. A. Kaszuba Locke

There are profound messages in Antonio Pagliarulo's exceptional debut novel, A Different Kind of Heat. In this a book for all ages, Pagliarulo's strong voice tells a compelling story, narrated by main character Luz Cordero in a composite of journal entries, dialog, scenes, and heart-tending poetry. This story dives deeply into the reality of what has happened in many cities and towns.

Luz Cordero is in a rage over her seventeen-year-old brother Julio's death - and it was a cop who pulled the trigger. Luz's anger gets her into trouble. Placed in St. Therese Home for Boys and Girls, Luz really wants 'to turn her life around'. Sister gives her a journal suggesting 'words are like therapy ... peace to the mind'. Luz describes the night of sirens, blue lights flashing, street cops and medical examiner. As Sister Ellen says 'you have to make peace with the past before sorting out the future'. But, how can she accept the murder of her brother, her guardian angel, the one she loved the most? When Luz arrived at St. Therese's, she was a militant, everyone - especially the cops - an enemy, and she wanted revenge! Luz chips away at, and works out, the truth of that night - to forgive her brother AND the man who killed him, but most importantly herself.

Luz told Judge Conner she can't stop thinking about 'the cop Mickey Pesaturo. The law called it 'justified force', but I say, 'how can any death be justified?'' It has taken Luz a year to understand the Judge's response: 'Honoring the dead has nothing to do with harming the living, Ms. Cordero.' She has never asked about the switchblade her brother carried in his pocket, and where the money came from for food on their table. Luz wonders 'why we're so unlucky. I mean, what did we do to deserve all this shit? Why are we 'inner city' and not 'safe suburbs'?' Her 1/22 journal entry says: 'ESCAPE / this is the place / I saw it in a dream / a big white house / surrounded by green / trees up high / a clear bright sky ... this is the place / one day I'll escape / and I'll know a world / without heartbreak.'

There are gunshots outside the Home, the police are called, and one of the officers is Mickey Pesaturo. Luz's rage rises again as dangerous emotions rip her insides apart. She hears the gunshots, sees blood and Julio, and the scenario repeats itself in her mind. 'WELCOME TO MY WORLD ... full moon rises in the midnight sky / and on the streets / sirens start to cry / starin' out my window at the cold concrete / but deep inside my mind / I'm feeling all the heat / memories play / and demons stay / and before I know it / I've got another beast to slay ... my anger burns'.

A Different Kind of Heat is a rasping, heartbreaking, uplifting and realistic story of one girl's struggle to forgive and remember. Change does eventually come - 'Dear Julio, Wherever you are, I know you're hearing this. You can see that I'm confused, going out of my skull. Nothing makes sense anymore. There's so much I need to tell you, but starting is like swimming across the ocean: impossible ... so many people have lost their loved ones ... comes a point when they understand ... nothing can change the past and that life continues.' Antonio Pagliarulo, who has worked as a tutor for inner city teenagers, reveals adolescents' rage at unfortunate circumstances and the destructiveness when it is misdirected at those in authority who attempt to help. He masterfully depicts the demanding task of sublimation of that rage into a different kind of heat.

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