Sometimes sugarcoating the truth can leave a bitter taste. Such is the lesson in this middle-grade tale.
Tia, a gifted young singer, lives alone with her mother. They have meager means, but thanks to working two jobs, Tia's mom manages. All Tia wants is to someday use her passion for singing to make a difference. However, after a neighborhood tragedy, Tia struggles to find her voice through the maelstrom of discordant notes hurled by folks who somehow know more about her incarcerated father than she does. When Tia learns that her well-meaning mother has intentionally misled her about why her father was imprisoned, Tia feels alienated from her close-knit New Orleans neighborhood and her best friend, Keisha. It's a noble effort on Going's part, and she does a commendable job of bringing readers into Tia's hardscrabble neighborhood. Still, this story feels sadly one-note; it’s a tale that moves inexorably toward a predictable conclusion—one that feels less and less likely by story's end. Tia and Keisha’s friendship is a sweet one, but the story stumbles in an attempt to draw huge parallels between the girls' relationship and Tia's relationship with her own parents. The major conflict of the story—Tia’s coping with the real reason her father is in prison—feels like a stretch.
Young readers may not be willing to sing in this hallelujah chorus. (Fiction. 10-13)