Kennedy, an African-American teen girl from a suburban gated community, lets her fascination with all things ’hood drive her into dangerous territory.
Her prim best friends, Jordan and Hope, have nothing but contempt for “low-budget hood roaches” and “stupid, annoying Ebonics.” Kennedy, however, seeks a boy who’s swaggerlicious and has even gotten a job at the local mall’s food court in hopes of meeting boys more her style. When Sasha, Kennedy’s co-worker, starts inviting her to parties and introducing her to boys from the ’hood, Kennedy quickly finds herself drinking, smoking weed, sneaking out of her house and becoming attached to an older boy named Malik. A lifestyle that initially seems adventurous and exciting soon leads to frightening fights, controlling behavior on Malik’s part and a scare-’em-straight climax with serious consequences. Readers see some of Kennedy’s thoughts and feelings—her frustration with her mom's and friends’ disapproval, her wonder at receiving Malik’s attention—but others remain opaque. It is never clear where Kennedy thinks Malik gets his money or even what interests her in ’hood life in the first place. Some dialogue and slang phrases feel repetitive: Sasha repeats “Miss me wit’ dat” far too often.
Sometimes rough around the edges but an engaging cautionary tale nevertheless. (Fiction. 14-18)