Book Talk: Show Them You're Good by Jeff Hobbs

“ Hobbs’s carefully observed journalistic account…widens our view of the modern ‘immigrant experience’ to include that classic crucible: high school and college admissions…An admirable addition to the growing body of literature that humanizes the struggles and expands the scope of our understanding of the lives of immigrant youth..”

—The New York Times

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About the Book

Four teenage boys are high school seniors at two very different schools within the city of Los Angeles, the second largest school district in the nation with nearly 700,000 students. Author Jeff Hobbs, writing with heart, sensitivity, and insight, stunningly captures the challenges and triumphs of being a young person confronting the future—both their own and the cultures in which they live—in contemporary America.

Combining complex social issues with the compelling experience of the individual, Hobbs takes us deep inside these boys’ worlds. The foursome includes Carlos, the younger son of undocumented delivery workers, who aims to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and attend an Ivy League college; Tio harbors serious ambitions to become an engineer despite a father who doesn’t believe in him; Jon, devoted member of the academic decathalon team, struggles to put distance between himself and his mother, who is suffocating him with her own expectations; and Owen, raised in a wealthy family, can’t get serious about academics but knows he must.

Filled with portraits of secondary characters including friends, peers, parents, teachers, and girlfriends, this masterwork of immersive journalism is both intimate and profound and destined to ignite conversations about class, race, expectations, cultural divides, and even the concept of fate.

Hobbs’s portrayal of these young men is not only revelatory and relevant, but also moving, eloquent, and indelibly powerful.

Reviews & What Readers Say

“ [The] young men [in Hobbs's book are] smart and curious, alert to the absurdity of adult life, keenly aware of grownups’ hypocrisy, and determined not to be seen as clichés. They faced all the messy realities of life — illness, poverty, unreliable parents — and 'pushed ahead anyway, in the very best way.'”

―Boston Globe

“ [An] exceptional work of investigative journalism. . . . A stirring examination of life in LA, the country’s political landscape, the flaws of the American higher education system, and the rites of passage from boyhood into manhood. Laced with compassion, insight, and humor, this appealing study deserves a wide readership."

Publishers Weekly

“ Show Them You’re Good is fair, painstakingly reported, suspenseful, ethical, and, above all, empathetic. Hobbs is obviously a remarkably good listener; these boys opened up to him because he earned their trust. The result was that he made me care—really care—about them."

Anne Fadiman, author of The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

" This book is such a deeply intimate and deeply moving coming-of-age story, one that wouldn’t let me go—and one that left me rooting for these boys, hoping that each of them finds their footing in the world. Once again, Jeff Hobbs has pulled off a remarkable triumph of empathy."

Alex Kotlowitz, author of An American Summer

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Show Them You're Good: A Portrait of Boys in the City of Angels the Year Before College by Jeff Hobbs


336 pages

ISBN 978-1982116330

Note: Now available. Click here

Jeff Hobbs graduated with a BA in English language and literature from Yale in 2002, where he was awarded the Willets and Meeker prizes for his writing. He is the author of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace and The Tourists. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children.

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