Punching The Air Book Review

Punching The Air is written by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam. I want to thank Yvonne Seeankanbo and Harper Collins Publishers Australia for the review copy.


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?


This is a story that young people definitely need to hear. The authors allow you to experience Amal’s journey as in one moment, one action threatens to change his future. This is a story about the power of art, faith, and transcendence in the most debilitating circumstances.

Amal is a typical teenager, and in one night his life is changed as he sees himself found guilty of a crime he didn’t commit. His story is shared through poems and highlights the struggles of being a person of colour.

Through his art and poetry, Amal speak his truth. Amal’s story is inspired by Yusef as an artist and as an incarcerated teenager who had the support of his family, read lots of books, and made art to keep his mind free.

This is the most touching and thought provoking book I have read this year. The questions that it raises and what the authors want to for people to start rethinking and asking is important. These questions are focus on the judicial system and the punishment for young people.

The most touching quote is found in the note from the authors “we hope to show the full humanity of Black children through Amal- his joy, fears, mistakes, regrets, love, sorrow, and most importantly, his hope.”

I give this book 5/5 stars and I truely hope this sparks tough conversations about crime and punishment in America and around the world.

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