The 10th grade brings big changes in the lives of four teenagers.
In this YA sequel, hardworking Luke—labeled poor white trash by bullies and the stern father of his supportive, caring Mexican-American girlfriend, Mia—is enjoying some academic success (although he’s still math-challenged). But his home situation with an abusive, alcoholic father and frail mother is about to reach a crisis point. While Mia is at the top of her class and is as industrious as poignant Luke, she feels even more parental pressure to excel and wonders how long she’ll be able to keep her father from finding out that the two teens are dating. Well-to-do black star athlete Marcus, after a humbling comedown in the first installment of the series, is gradually finding value in school, his teammates, and a girl who appreciates his new attitude. Bright Elly, a white girl whose parents have plenty of money, too, gains confidence in her looks, but her struggle with self-respect is evident in her choice of bad-news boyfriends. Ingram (Ninth Grade Blues, 2017, etc.), a high school English teacher, gives each of these four main characters an authentic, distinct voice, smoothly shifting back and forth among the teens’ first-person perspectives as events unfold over their sophomore year. Their experiences include parental physical abuse, bullying, alcohol-fueled partying, dating insecurities, a serious injury, deepening romantic relationships, unexpected friendships, and knowledge gained through academic and life lessons. As he did in his first book, Ingram has the teens cope with both admirable and flawed adults (including teachers) and issues involving peer pressure and support, love, and respect. There is no graphic content, but the teens, now a year older, believably wrestle with increased independence, more overt sexual awareness, exposure to risky behaviors, and thoughts of the future. As the school year ends, the author leaves the characters’ appealing and relatable stories open-ended, presumably to be continued in his next volume spanning the 11th grade.
A well-crafted and engaging tale about a quartet of teens dealing with self-doubt and self-discovery in high school.