American Street

american street

American Street

By Ibi Zoboi

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 14, 2017

Review

Fabiola was born in America but has lived in Haiti her entire life so when she and her mother try to move to Detroit, her mother is detained but Fabiola is not.

So I’m in the minority here and I would like to begin by saying that I REALLY wanted to like this book and it started off well but I just didn’t like it and here’s why.

This book was incredibly predictable.  Predictability is a dealbreaker for me and maybe it was intentionally predictable but that was my main issue.  If a book is supposed to be predictable than it should have some nuance or strong character development just something to distract the reader. I know I’m not the only one who predicted everything so that’s why I think I must have missed something great that everyone else saw.

The cousins were a bit too tropey for me and none of them had a unique voice.  I appreciate their rationale for why they are intentionally mean but that’s all I got that made these characters special.  I liked that Donna explained her devotion to Dray but it bothered me a bit that her dealbreaker was his association with a white girl and not him beating her or cheating on her with black girls.

There’s instalove which is also a dealbreaker for me and I felt the relationship was forced and a means to an end.  I thought Fabiola was a little uneven.  She begins the story as a scared girl aching for her mother. She had a hard life in Haiti but when she stepped off the plane she came across as meek.  Then a couple days in she tells herself she’s going to be brave and then she steps out with weave and a tight dress and engaging with dangerous men. A girl who does the latter is a confident person and Fabiola just didn’t seem all that confident when she stepped off the plane. I got her sense of desperation and the fact that she put herself in harms way for her mother and that was believable but that initial personality switch was a jolt.

I did like the Dray character and thought he was a complicated young man and a good villain.  I also enjoyed Bad Leg and Fab’s belief in him as a higher being.  It made the reader also wonder if Bad Leg was just an observant crackhead or if he was a something else.  My only issue was that the cousins told Fab that he was a crackhead and to leave it alone but when she tells them that Bad Leg says to not go to the party, they believe her.  Now I was skipping around and maybe I missed something that made them start believing in Bad Leg and if that is the case, ignore what I just said. I also liked the curse surrounding the house.

I really wanted to like it and I must be missing the greatness of this book because I didn’t enjoy it.

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbomb

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The Hate U Give

the-hate-u-give

The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: Contemporary

Publication Date: February 21, 2017

Bang Bang Rating: bombbombbombbomb 1/4

Review

Starr leads a double life.  In one life she’s a sixteen year old who lives in a gang/drug infested neighborhood with her mother, her ex-con father, her younger brother, and sometimes her older brother with whom she shares a father.  In her other life she’s a high school junior at Williamson Academy, a predominately White school, with a White boyfriend, an Asian friend, and a White friend. Starr struggles with her identity between her two worlds especially after her best friend, who was Black, was shot and killed by a White police officer.

The incident happens quite early in the book which I believe was a brilliant idea because it causes the reader to adopt assumptions about Khalil, the boy who was killed.  As the story progresses we learn more about Khalil and his circumstances thus creating the conversation about race, poverty, and privilege.  Many of us have prejudices about people who sell drugs or are gang members and Thomas sheds a light and may cause some readers to reevaluate the way they think the next time an unarmed Black youth is shot.

One of the reasons why this story is good is because Starr is relatable to many people, not just Blacks.  Starr struggles with the way she changes her behavior when she’s among certain people.  In her circumstance, she changes the way she speaks and she doesn’t discuss her home life around her school friends and she gets persecuted by her “sister” because she doesn’t act Black enough.  I think lots of people struggle with this in their workplace or perhaps they have family with different political/religious beliefs from their friends, etc. Starr shares her inner monologue and her rationality which a lot of other book characters don’t do and I think this enhances the reading experience because we get to understand the choices she’s making.

Every character was essential to the plot including the seven year old little brother to the grandmothers but I think the stand out, other than Starr, was Starr’s father.  Marv had the most significant character arc.  He was sent to jail for gang activity and he continues to have a gang mentality while caring for his family.  Although his actions are terrible most of the time you can see why he thinks a certain way because Thomas explains his logic quite well.

As someone who didn’t grow up in a neighborhood like Starr’s or knows someone who was shot by a police officer or who has never been in a protest, I think this book gave me a glimpse into the Trayvon Martin incident.  Overall, I thought The Hate U Give was insightful and honest.  My only issue was the dialogue among the characters.  There were several pages and situations of conversations about The Fresh Prince and cereal and other trivial teenage things that really didn’t impact the plot.  I know Thomas was showcasing Starr’s interactions among her different groups of friends but there were too many, they were too long, and I wish they could have been a bit deeper.  I’m not trying to say they had to talk like John Green characters but I think it dragged down the book and made it longer than it needed to be.  I think length is important because if I try to give this book to my Black or Hispanic reluctant readers, they’ll take one look at this 450 page book and say no thanks.