Surviving middle school and puberty is an age-old challenge that video cameras and YouTube have only complicated, as vividly demonstrated in this enjoyable, seriocomic tale of new love, culture clash, adolescent social stratification and friendship.
His obsession with girls has already driven a wedge between seventh-grader Alex Schrader and nerdy pals Nomura and Ira (beware geeks with video cameras) at their Brooklyn, boys-only parochial school. Still, when Alex is smitten with a beautiful Haitian student at their sister school, his loyal, inexperienced posse offers aid and (dubious) advice. Bijou Doucet, who lived through Haiti’s horrific earthquake three years earlier, has more on her plate: life with her childless uncle and aunt in a new country whose adolescent culture Bijou’s expected to ignore. No academic superstar (he didn’t know Haiti was in the West Indies) and burdened with a cello-playing older sister, easygoing Alex cheerfully admits to being talent-free. But love leads him to unexpected places: to Flatbush and Haitian rara music, to discover a talent for drumming, to examine unquestioned values and priorities. Meanwhile, classmates threatened by the disruption of the social pecking order take action. Though Alex’s voice is stronger, co-narrator Bijou is sensitively drawn. Farrar handles race and the complexities of interracial relationships by implication, through Alex’s discovery of the vibrant, new (to him) world just blocks away.
A solid, timely effort. (author’s note) (Fiction. 12-15)