Books by Allison Whittenberg

TUTORED by Allison Whittenberg
Released: Dec. 14, 2010

The politics of ethnicity and class are heavily at play in this work of romantic fiction. Seventeen-year-old Wendy has been raised in a white suburb of Philadelphia by her overprotective father, who fears her exposure to the poor black neighborhoods he left behind. Wendy responds to his blatant stereotyping by becoming a tutor in just such a community, where she meets Hakiam. Newly arrived in the city, he's just the sort of boy her dad fears—he spent his adolescence being shuffled through foster homes and now lives with his cousin and her premature, newborn baby. Predictably, the two initially clash but quickly move past their sparring and become intrigued with one another, to the chagrin of both their families. The chemistry between the pair comes about abruptly, but the strength of this story lies in the dynamic between Wendy and Hakiam and in his experiences with her friends. Secondary characters are, unfortunately, not as well developed—both Wendy's dad and Hakiam's cousin are caricatures with whom readers will not be able to empathize. Ambitious and thought-provoking, if flawed. (Fiction. 12 & up)Read full book review >
HOLLYWOOD & MAINE by Allison Whittenberg
Released: Jan. 13, 2009

Negotiations involving first love, a potential modeling career and a ne'er-do-well uncle prove challenging for 15-year-old Charmaine (Maine) in this gently humorous second installment about life in the Upshaw family. Employing the same relaxed pace used in 2006's Sweet Thang, Maine's narrative voice is steeped in the social conscience that frames the novel's 1970s setting. There are occasional passages where details may be too nostalgic for current young readers, as when Maine muses that the young Michael Jackson "was asked to be James Brown, Jackie Wilson, and Sam Cooke all rolled into one." Still, Maine's loving exasperation with her brother and little cousin sparkle with life (evoking memories of Lois Lowry's Anastasia and Sam Krupnik), and the wisdom of Maine's parents and peers, richly woven with bits of African-American cultural history, feels true. Though readers need not be familiar with the first offering to enjoy the charm of this one, there are some allusions that will be clearer if they are. (Historical fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >
LIFE IS FINE by Allison Whittenberg
Released: March 11, 2008

For 15-year-old Samara Tuttle, life is anything but fine. Set against a gritty, gray, urban landscape, Samara lives with her absentee mother, and Q—her mother's abusive, philandering and generally worthless boyfriend. With no positive role models in her life, Samara chronically skips school, chain-smokes and spends her days at the zoo imagining a friendship with a monkey she names Dru. Even Samara's teachers are lackluster examples of adulthood, wearing "low rise jeans and flip flops." When Mr. Holbrook, a new sub donning a dapper suit and a love of poetry, starts at Samara's school, she is instantly smitten—even though he's old enough to be her grandfather. Samara's need to have a responsible, positive adult force in her life evolves into something inappropriate, but Mr. Holbrook turns out to be a more surprising and beneficial force in her life than Samara could have imagined. Though prone to some convenient plot liberties, Whittenberg has penned an overall hopeful tale for Samara, like the Langston Hughes poem for which the novel was named. (Fiction. YA)Read full book review >
SWEET THANG by Allison Whittenberg
Released: March 28, 2006

Three years after the death of her Auntie Karyn and the subsequent arrival of her terminally adorable cousin Tracy John into the family, 14-year-old Charmaine still hasn't come to terms with this reality. As if having the disgustingly cute Tracy John in the household isn't enough, Maine has to cope with all the usual travails of adolescence: Her skin is too black; her crush-object Demetrius is happy enough to have her do his homework, but he gives his affection to the annoyingly light-skinned Dinah; she has to baby-sit for Tracy John after school; her family doesn't understand her. Whittenberg has crafted a highly enjoyable tale, set just after the end of the Vietnam War, with a smart, funny narrator-protagonist who acknowledges the problems of the world but keeps them at arm's length. There are few surprises in store for readers—Maine learns to love Tracy John and to dislike the crummily opportunistic Demetrius—but they could do a lot worse than to spend a few hours in Maine's head. Well-crafted entertainment-grade books about African-American teens are all too rare, and this is a solid contribution to the genre. (Fiction. 10-14)Read full book review >