NaTasha has well-meaning parents and a supportive best friend, so being nearly the only African-American teen at school only occasionally gives her problems.
Her grandmother Tilly has misgivings, however, and when she witnesses NaTasha’s difficulties with a dance recital, she insists on taking her back to Harlem to volunteer at Amber’s Place, a program for troubled girls. It's not easy for NaTasha to fit in: The others criticize her speech and clothes and nickname her “Sellout.” Tilly will not let her quit, though, and she gradually connects with the girls. With an important project and a first date, NaTasha’s visit becomes richer than her life back home. Details she learns about her grandmother and mother provide insight as she develops a stronger sense of herself. Here is the normal teen coming-of-age story placed in a context of race and class. NaTasha’s doubts about her mother’s focus on shopping and appearances successfully present a character open to the change she experiences
Some at the center are predictable tough-girl characters, but the dialogue is authentic, and NaTasha’s growth feels right. (Fiction. 12 & up)