3.5 stars. I went into this one with a little bit of hesitancy after seeing a couple of people slam it pretty hard for being full of bad stereotypes. Most of the people I know who have read the book did like it a lot, but sometimes even one or two negative opinions can be enough to scare me off if they're strong ones.Funny thing is, I didn't think it was as bad or off-base as those couple people made it out to be. Maybe it was because I knew my fair share of guys similar to Alex (and dated a couple) by living in a neighborhood similar to his. A lot of the things that happened in the book (including the scene where Alex wanted to leave his situation) are things I've witnessed firsthand, unfortunately.Even the strange use of Spanish and random slang didn't seem all that bizarre to me. It reminded me of when I lived in my old apartment complex and how some of my friends and neighbors were so used to being around only their close group of friends and family, that when they spoke to me it was almost as if the two languages were intertwined and formed one entity of its own. In this book's execution it might have come across as a bit clunky but I'll give this a pass.My bigger issue was how one moment Alex would sound like he was hard and the next he would sound almost girly. Then again, we were in his head when he was feeling emotion, so maybe I'm a little too hard on the transition. He wasn't off character when he was speaking to others. What we project to the world and what we actually think/feel can often be different things.I have experienced some of what happened in this book (even down to sitting at someone's bedside in the hospital), and some of the insight into gang life wasn't too far off (if romanticized a bit). The author may not have hit every single detail dead on (but then again, I've never lived in the Chicago area, so I'm guessing there could be cultural/location differences from the west coast), but she gets an A for effort.I'm not going to criticize someone who is willing to write the stories that don't always get written. Should we expect authors to stay in the safe zone and keep everything wrapped up nice and tight in a little predetermined box?The story was good. The characters were not cardboard cutouts of every other character I've read. The solution was not easy or a copout. Alex did not get off the hook for his choices. I like that.This was a love story for fans of unconventional love stories. I'm not embarrassed to say that I really enjoyed this one.The epilogue was completely unnecessary though and should have been left out. It added nothing to the story. I haven't checked to see if it ties in to the next book, but even if it did, I don't think I'd need that scene.