Outside of a stone building with the title spray painted on the wall

About the Book

Title: The Domino Effect
Published: 2011

Cover Story: Synergize Your Workforce!
Drinking Buddy:
Oh Yeah
MPAA Rating:
R (rape, language)
Talky Talk:
And They Say The Public Schools Are Screwed Up
Bonus Factors:
Wise Ol’ Italian Father
Anti-Bonus Factor: Rape
Bromance Status:
That Roommate I Secretly Tried To Drive Out But Ended Up Bonding With

Content Warning: Contains rape

Cover Story: Synergize Your Workforce!

Yeah, the graffiti and the stone building fit the plot, but it’s certainly not something that’s going to grab a reader by the eye. The catchy title and bland cover made me think it was a dull book about increasing your market share by thinking outside the box and flogging your workers.

The Deal:

Danny ‘Domino’ Rorro is just an Italian kid from Queens, until his neighborhood starts to get a little Hispanic-y. Danny winds up with a baseball bat to the head–not by a Puerto Rican, but by one of his old neighbors who accuse his family of being Latino-lovers. So Danny is shipped off to Hamden Academy, where the racial violence is replaced by a violent sports rivalry. And more racial violence. And a pretty girl named Brenda he can make an ass out of himself for.

Drinking Buddy: Oh Yeah

Two pints of beer cheersing

Something about this book resonated with me. The characters are philosophers who make fart jokes, artists who express themselves via vandalism, and social activists who punch people. Just like real life teenagers, at least the normal ones.

MPAA Rating: R (rape, violence, language)

Did I mention the violence? There’s head-bashing, cafeteria brawls, room trashing, mini-race riots, and good, old fashioned anger. Not A Clockwork Orange, but certainly badder than West Side Story.

Talky Talk: And They Say the Public Schools Are Screwed Up

Okay, seriously, are all private schools hotbeds of sex, violence, and madcap craziness? Did I miss out by going to public school? Can one only truly become a man when living under the strict rules of a noodly resident advisor? Books like these make me feel like I missed out on the great private school experience.

The Sorting Hat and other Harry Potter artifacts

But didn’t we all?

Bonus Factor: Wise Ol’ Italian Father

Al Molinaro of 'Happy Days'

Dominick Rorro is the type of pop anyone could be proud of. He’s socially active but not preachy, loving but not afraid to lay the smack down, he cares about his family but is still friends with ‘nice guys who maybe do things that aren’t so nice.’ It’s a good balance.

Anti-bonus Factor: Legitimate Rape

Todd 'Legitimate Rape' Akin, failed Missouri Senate candidate

Cotto does an excellent job of exploring the nasty subject date rape. He puts a real face on something that’s too often not talked about, or only mentioned in the clinical sense. A rare example of a valuable lesson in a YA book that doesn’t need to bludgeon you over the head.

Bromance Status: That Roommate I Secretly Tried to Drive Out But Ended Up Bonding With

Okay, maybe I wasn’t thrilled when you moved in, and tried to make you leave by never giving you your phone messages and eating your food, but after a couple of months, I realized you were a stand up guy. And I sure as hell wasn’t going to let anyone talk trash about you. You’re my bro. Sorry about the trying to poison you prank.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received a free copy of the book from the publisher, but no money or beer.

Brian wrote his first YA novel when he was down and out in Mexico. He now lives in Missouri with his wonderful wife and daughter. He divides his time between writing and working as a school librarian. Brian still misses the preachy YA books of the eighties.