SPELLBOUND by Janet McDonald


Age Range: 14 & up
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Raven Jefferson is 16 and lives with her mother in a housing project in Brooklyn. She was a high school senior, until the birth of her son Smokey derailed most of her plans. Raven is at home, guilty and depressed about being a teenage mom and a drain on her mother’s resources—Gwen Jefferson supports Raven and Smokey on the income from her job as a postal clerk. Initial tension is provided by the relationship between Raven and her older sister, Dell, who became a paralegal and moved into her own apartment. On her visits home, she prods Raven to better herself and go back to school. Raven has a really tight friendship with Aisha, who lives in the same project and is also a teenage mother. Aisha advises Raven, baby-sits for her, and makes her laugh when she is downhearted. As the story evolves, Raven takes control of her life—first by getting a part-time job, then striving to win a spelling contest that can lead to a college scholarship. Halfway through, Smokey’s father, Jesse, reappears. He struggles to have his middle class African-American parents accept Raven and Smokey into their lives. There are some great depictions of character here; especially fine is the portrayal of the friendship between Raven and big, loving, feisty Aisha. The dialogue captures the pace and speech patterns of urban African-Americans, adding humor and descriptive power to the characterizations. Startlingly funny scenes add lightness to a work that, because of the subject matter, could have been very depressing. Although the ending is a little unbelievable and pat, on the whole it’s satisfyingly hopeful. (Fiction. YA)

Pub Date: Oct. 5th, 2001
ISBN: 0-374-37140-7
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Frances Foster/Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 2001


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