But... nope. It's a body bag. Yowza. Big points to the designer. [Later: Just found this post about the process behind creating the cover. They definitely made the right call in changing it.]
Since I loved his voice so very much, I'll let Micheal introduce himself (this is from page two):
I started out in 9A, in case you're wondering, one down from honors. I'd done OK on the test they made us all take back at the end of eighth grade. Better than OK, but the classes didn't work out. They said I wasn't "applying myself," and that's fair enough. Then I threw Oscar Tully a serious beating for saying something he shouldn't've, and that was that, down to general in the middle of the third marking period. I had no idea what was going on in G, and I didn't really feel like trying to figure it out. Sophomore year started and I found myself in 10R.
Fine with me, that's where someone like me belongs--someone of my "pedigree," if you read me. This should clue you in: My first name is spelled wrong. It's Micheal instead of Michael. Mom or Dad, one of them dropped the ball on that one, probably Dad, in the hospital or wherever it is you fill out that paperwork. Not that it matters; everyone calls me Mike. Still, it's a bad way to start things out.
Micheal, Mixer, Tommy and Bones have been friends for a long time. They know each other well. So, when Tommy doesn't show up in his afternoon classes after throwing a desk in math, the others don't think much of it. After all, it's likely that he's been suspended.
But then he doesn't show up the next day. And he doesn't answer his phone. And his mother doesn't know where he is.
That's when the three remaining boys start to think about what went on in English class that day. And about what may have really happened to Tommy.
Short version: Gentlemen gets a Hulk-sized double thumbs-up from me. I'm totally in love with it and you really should run to your local library and snag it immediately.
Longer-but-still short version: What, you don't believe me? See above. Yeesh. Really. Micheal is very bright, very perceptive and always believable. His voice is fresh and distinct, clever in a way that feels new, gritty and hard-boiled in a way that feels true to his age, and darkly funny in a way that never comes off as flip or downplays the situation. He spun the story out in a way that kept me guessing until he himself realized what had happened and what was going to happen, and I'm just totally in love. Even after finishing the book, I find that I'm thinking of him as a real person.
It's an outstanding, excellent book, and I very much hope that Michael Northrop will have more to come for the YA audience.
Book source: ILLed from my local library.
I read this book for the 2009 Cybils. (It had been on my TBR list for a zillion years as well -- the nomination just got my rear in gear.)