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The F Words

Chicago high school student Cole Renner understands about injustice, both social and political. He sees how it operates on a school level, where students are forced to take boring, rote-learning state tests, where bullies roam the hallways, where Black and Latino students are not treated as equals, and where the principal rules like a dictator. 


All that injustice is dwarfed by the fact that Cole's father is thrown into Cook County Jail simply for exercising his right of free speech. Dwarfed by the injustice of ICE patrolling the city streets around Cole's school, looking for immigrants. Intimidating students. Rounding them up. Deporting them.


And then there's the injustice (maybe?) of Cole's English teacher requiring that Cole write two poems a week. All because he caught Cole tagging the high school wall with the f word.


Are these injustices — racial, cultural, and class — separate, or are they connected? Cole soon finds out. When his best friend Felipe Ramirez runs for class president, all the injustices come roaring down like one humongous avalanche. 


Working as a team, Cole, Felipe, and new student Treva organize to fight for what's right. Through active protest and also through poetry, Cole finds his own voice and moves forward to help change the world.




The F Words: Protest and Poetry, Video


The F Words: Injustice and Oppression, Video


The F Words: Cross-Country Running, Video


The F Words: Friendship, Video


The F Words: Humor, Video





Children's Book Council Hot Off the Press Pick for September 2021.


The teen characters' discussions of issues such as deportation and racism may inspire young readers who are fed up with witnessing inequities . . .  . the author admirably showcases the power young people hold when they come together and speak out against a biased system. A timely novel about empowered teens.              — Kirkus



In The F Words, Gregorich's beautifully crafted, diverse characters use the power of words to fight racism and injustice. They tackle today's issues in a take-your-breath-away page turner that teens will want to read in one sitting.  I hope this finds its way into every high school classroom.

 — Roxanne F. Owens, PhD; Chair, Teacher Education DePaul University College of Education; Editor, Illinois Reading Council Journal


I have wondered for a long time where the YA stories with young-person-as-activist have been hiding, or waiting to be written. Wait no more. I love the way this book captures the advice out there to think globally by acting locally. Cole is a model character for our time, and for readers of all ages. 

 — Chris Tebbetts, co-author of the #1 NYTimes bestselling MIDDLE SCHOOL series with James Patterson

Freakin'  Fantastic! A beautiful and powerful book.

 — Jonathan Eig, Author of Ali: A Life, PEN/ESPN Award; Named Best Book of the Year by Sports Illustrated; NAACP Image Award Finalist; Author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig, Casey Award Winner

The F Words powerfully and cleverly highlights how injustice, both personal and political, becomes a catalyst for high-schooler Cole Renner to change his own life —and that of his fellow students. What a great notion — to make the writing of poetry a tool for growth and finding one's voice! This book will capture the interest of any young reader, and may very well change lives.

 — Robert Burleigh, award-winning author of more than 50 children's books (including Flight: The Journey of Charles Lindberg; Hoops; and Abraham Lincoln Comes Home). Winner of the Prairie State Award presented by the Illinois Reading Council


Barbara Gregorich has given us here a politically admirable story about young people fighting injustice.  It is not only inspirational; it is also an entertaining, gripping read.  Smoothly and clearly written, lively, clever, believable, and witty – The F Words is a genuine page-turner.
 — Bruce Levine, author of The Fall of the House of Dixie


It is completely refreshing to read a book about a good kid making restitution for doing a bad thing while figuring out constructive ways to deal with injustice. . . . Barbara Gregorich uses her experience as an activist and lover of sports to create a marvelous cast of eclectic teachers, staff, students, and parents in this street-level view of precarious teen life in contemporary Chicago.                   — Lisa Lickel, Windy City Reviews