By Ibi Zoboi
Genre: Contemporary/Re-imagination of Pride and Prejudice
Publication Date: September 18, 2018
Bang Bang Review
Zuri is very proud of her neighborhood and her family and when a new black family moves into the mini mansion across the street, Zuri’s prejudices come out.
I have not read Pride and Prejudice so I had to ask my co-worker who has read P&P every year for many years to help me see the parallels. With that being said, you don’t have to read P&P to enjoy or understand Pride; it stands alone.
So this book is basically about Zuri, a girl who is sheltered by her parents and RARELY leaves her neighborhood of Bushwick, NY. When the Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri is forced to “leave” her neighborhood through these outsiders. The Darcy boys are black but not black enough for Zuri because they don’t talk like her, dress like her, or listen to the same music as she does and she judges them. However, when she first meets Darius Darcy and he turns his nose up at her, she is furious because he judged her. This is the main plot and although it’s consistent with its originator, the pacing of Zoboi’s adaptation was an issue.
It’s becomes obvious pretty quickly that Zuri is a hypocrite and that’s fine but she’s completely unaware and has no inner monologue about it so we are forced to read the obvious and yell at this girl for being a hypocrite for 90% of the book. She’s FINALLY called out on it but it comes way too late and it’s way too brief for effective character growth. Flawed characters are important but there has to be a flow to keep the reader going. At some point Zuri should have been called out by her sister and there was an opportunity but it didn’t happen. Because she’s living in her own world of hypocrisy, there’s no room for her to grow. Zoboi makes Zuri grow but only in one aspect when there are two issues surrounding Zuri- her prejudice and her sheltered life.
Let’s talk about the unexplored growth which is in the title-prejudice. I have been accused of not being black enough most of my life because all the way into college I had people tell me I talk like a white girl. Because when I was ten my black friends called me “a lame” because I knew all the Madonna songs but didn’t know who New Edition was (I’ll admit, that was pretty bad that I did’t know who New Edition was but I changed that). This still happens and although it’s not an earth shattering problem in the black community, it’s synonymous with identity and many black teens struggle with identity and being accepted. Although there is a confrontation with Darius about him not being black enough, the payoff was minute considering how much Zuri judged him for it. Not-being-black-enough is an unexplored topic in YA fiction and I just wished Zoboi had explored it more.
Now let’s talk about the explored growth- being sheltered. I think Zoboi did a great job in describing Zuri’s block and neighbors and her pride in her community and culture. Zuri’s block is becoming gentrified which is happening all over the country and once again and unexplored topic in YA fiction. Zuri shares a bedroom with her four sisters so she understandably wants space. She has an older sister, Janae, who is coming home from college who unlike Zuri wants to travel and see the world rather than be home. The sister could have been developed a lot better in this aspect. Janae could have been a source of conflict for wanting to leave or a source of envy but she played none of those roles. Zoboi made a bit of a big deal about her homecoming but Janae didn’t drive the plot-missed opportunity. At one point, Zuri goes on a college tour to DC and there’s little to no exposition on her experiences leaving the state or meeting other black people when once again, the book is about pride in her neighborhood and is essential to her growth. She talks about wanting to leave to return and helping her neighborhood but there’s no inner monologue when being in the moment.
This is a romance and it was okay but Zuri felt uneven and I wasn’t invested in the romance. Zuri is a poet and she takes the time to think about her life so she can put her feelings into words. People like this are insightful and posses many layers. But Zuri only seems to like Darius because he’s really attractive which I find to be an attribute of a one dimensional character. Yes, she is a teen and teens are hormonal but she’s being set up as a girl who commands respect from boys when she walks down the street. She’s very aware and proud of her reputation and she’s working very hard to go to college so that she can give back so when she’s met with a very intelligent and round character in Darius and all she sees is his face and body, it’s uneven. Upon their first encounter, he’s a bit rude and he clearly doesn’t think she’s good enough for him. He’s short with her and gives her stink eyes but she’s enamored-WHAT?! She constantly criticizes him for not being hood enough for her but she thinks about him a lot but all we have to go on is his appearance. I just feel like someone who is insightful like her would look past his appearance and see something else that she finds attractive. She does eventually say what that is and it’s valid but it’s like 50% in and a bit too late for me.
Finally, I had an issue with the writing and the pacing. It’s almost like I can see Zoboi writing this book and saying to herself, “How can I create conflict with Zuri and Darius? I know, I’ll invite her to his parent’s cocktail party where they are all fish out of water.” Zoboi did this several times where there were BRIEF events that were only meant to be a means to an end. That aforementioned cocktail party lasted two pages when there was an opportunity to grow Darius’ parents or life before Bushwick. Darius conveniently shows up while Zuri is visiting DC and she conveniently has a conflict at his snobby grandmother’s house. There were several instances where the events in the story weren’t organic but obvious plot devices. As far as the pacing, one example is her college visit. Janae tells Zuri she bought her a bus ticket to visit a college and in the very next paragraph she’s on the bus.
I appreciate the culture in the story, Zuri is half Dominican and half Haitia, and I think this was done well. I liked the love portrayed between Zuri’s parents. However, Pride could be a better critical read if the characters were better developed. Ainsley and Janae were flat and could have played a larger role in Zuri’s development. Her best friend could also have played a larger role in the story’s theme. The pacing of Zuri’s development relied too much on bashing the reader over the head with her prejudices. If she was called out earlier by her sister or her friend the pacing would be better and she would have more time to grow.
Bang Bang Rating: 1/2