Life at a Maine boarding school is vastly different from an inner-city neighborhood in East Cleveland, Ohio, and requires a corresponding set of survival skills for a young black male.
Anthony “Ant” Jones is anxiously awaiting word whether he will leave his East Cleveland neighborhood to begin his freshman year at a boarding school in Maine. His mother has decided that he must go if he is to have a better future, and when his best friend is killed, Anthony looks forward to a different experience. Life at Belton Academy reinforces his concerns about a nearly all-white environment, though, and challenges many of the ideas he carried. Some of the racism is almost casual, and school administrators seem clueless. However, his roommate, Brody, is not what he expected, and some black students have adopted coping strategies that puzzle Anthony. A complicating factor is the presence of Somali refugees in the small town surrounding the school, triggering racist responses directed at all people of color. Anthony is a complex, likable character who convincingly grows in the course of the novel. He gradually understands what will be required if he is to succeed in his new school. “So I put on a mask that was so perfectly polished that it only reflected who you all wanted to see.” His sense of belonging to neither his old community nor the world represented by Belton Academy is palpable, as is his frustration at those who refuse his attempts to define himself.
Strong, realistic language and well-drawn secondary characters contribute to this authentic narrative. (Fiction. 14 & up)