As revolutions go, this is a rather dull one.

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ALUTA

As author and storyteller Badoe chronicles 18-year-old first-year political science student Charlotte Adom’s college life at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana, it’s one of studying hard, eating home-cooked meals between classes—and dating.

Charlotte, her roommate, Mary, and floor mates Juaben and Sylvia go together to nightclubs, where they meet wealthy professional men. Such a man is Asare, a shady businessman who aggressively woos Charlotte with gifts and a passport. However, she gives up the financial security Asare offers for the love and burgeoning political consciousness that fellow university student Banahene gives, which solidifies when Jerry Rawlings comes to power for a second time in a 1981 coup and forces the university students into work camps, along with other, increasingly violent tactics used to shut down popular and student dissent. Unfortunately, Charlotte’s bland first-person narration fails to convey the adrenaline involved in love and struggle under Rawlings’ dictatorship. (“I felt the heat in my face as he twirled his pen around and around, smug as a magistrate” is typical prose.) Thus, the shock of what happens to Charlotte near the end comes from the fact of the violence itself, not how the author describes it—which may be fine for a griot but not for a writer.

As revolutions go, this is a rather dull one. (Historical fiction. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-55498-816-7

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Groundwood

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2016

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This story is necessary. This story is important.

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THE HATE U GIVE

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter is a black girl and an expert at navigating the two worlds she exists in: one at Garden Heights, her black neighborhood, and the other at Williamson Prep, her suburban, mostly white high school.

Walking the line between the two becomes immensely harder when Starr is present at the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend, Khalil, by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed. Khalil’s death becomes national news, where he’s called a thug and possible drug dealer and gangbanger. His death becomes justified in the eyes of many, including one of Starr’s best friends at school. The police’s lackadaisical attitude sparks anger and then protests in the community, turning it into a war zone. Questions remain about what happened in the moments leading to Khalil’s death, and the only witness is Starr, who must now decide what to say or do, if anything. Thomas cuts to the heart of the matter for Starr and for so many like her, laying bare the systemic racism that undergirds her world, and she does so honestly and inescapably, balancing heartbreak and humor. With smooth but powerful prose delivered in Starr’s natural, emphatic voice, finely nuanced characters, and intricate and realistic relationship dynamics, this novel will have readers rooting for Starr and opening their hearts to her friends and family.

This story is necessary. This story is important. (Fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-249853-3

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

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Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in...

DEAR MARTIN

In this roller-coaster ride of a debut, the author summons the popular legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. to respond to the recent tragic violence befalling unarmed black men and boys.

Seventeen-year-old black high school senior Justyce McAllister, a full-scholarship student at the virtually all-white Braselton Prep, is the focus. After a bloody run-in with the police when they take his good deed for malice, Justyce seeks meaning in a series of letters with his “homie” Dr. King. He writes, “I thought if I made sure to be an upstanding member of society, I’d be exempt from the stuff THOSE black guys deal with, you know?” While he’s ranked fourth in his graduating class and well-positioned for the Ivy League, Justyce is coming to terms with the fact that there’s not as much that separates him from “THOSE black guys” as he’d like to believe. Despite this, Stone seems to position Justyce and his best friend as the decidedly well-mannered black children who are deserving of readers’ sympathies. They are not those gangsters that can be found in Justyce’s neighborhood. There’s nuance to be found for sure, but not enough to upset the dominant narrative. What if they weren’t the successful kids? While the novel intentionally leaves more questions than it attempts to answer, there are layers that still remain between the lines.

Though constrained, the work nevertheless stands apart in a literature that too often finds it hard to look hard truths in the face. Take interest and ask questions. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-101-93949-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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