As a toddler, Wes, the book's author, had a loving family, successful parents and a nice home in Maryland. Then, when he was just 3 years old, his life took a dramatic turn. His father died suddenly from a rare virus. Unable to raise three children on her own, Wes' mother, Joy, moved her family to the Bronx to live with her parents.
Joy enrolled her children in a respected private school across town in an attempt to protect them from the drugs and gangs infiltrating their neighborhood. Young Wes soon discovered how hard it was to straddle both worlds.
"I was very lost during that period," Wes says. "I found myself quickly becoming too rich for the kids in the neighborhood and too poor for the kids at school."
Wes became a troublemaker. He says he set off smoke bombs in lockers, skipped school and was even picked up by the police. When Joy realized she was starting to lose her son, she decided to take action.
After years of telling Wes she would send him away to military school, she made good on her threat. Wes' grandparents mortgaged their home so they could afford to send their 12-year-old grandson to a Pennsylvania military school.
"I didn't want to be there," Wes says. "I ran away five times in the first four days, but I started to begin to think about why I was there and about the opportunity that this was to really reshape my identity and do something different."