CHILL WIND by Janet MacDonald


Age Range: 14 & up
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When her welfare benefits dry up, Aisha, a 19-year-old black single mother with two children and no high school diploma or work history, has to figure out a way to support herself and her family. Although not precisely a sequel, MacDonald picks up a secondary character from Spellbound several years later, again wowing the reader with her authentic voice and invigorating dialogue. When the reader last saw Aisha, she was “chillin’,” living with her mother and daughter while the system picked up the tab. Now, she has a son as well as a daughter, but still no education, husband, or marketable skills. After a prolonged, somewhat repetitious setup, during which Aisha tries feigning mental illness to keep her benefits, then fruitlessly appeals to the father of her children and various relatives for support, she realizes that she’s on her own. Aisha, who is short and fat but quite comely, decides to try her hand as a plus-size model. Although her big mouth and bad attitude initially get her into a heap of trouble, she eventually lucks into an incredible job, gaining a measure of fame and fortune. Aisha does mature in the course of the story, taking responsibility for her situation, relinquishing her pugnacious posture, and making peace with her abusive, alcoholic mother (who unexpectedly gives up the bottle), but the unearned Hollywood ending doesn’t jibe with the rest of the story. Nonetheless, MacDonald deserves kudos for her gritty, unsentimental portrait of day-to-day life in the projects. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 22nd, 2002
ISBN: 0-374-39958-1
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2002