Hip-hop and rap, racial tensions, sex positivity, religion, coming out, even parental abandonment: At its low points, this reads like a checklist of hot-button issues.
But beneath the politics and too many lists of hip-hop/rap artists lies a touching story of impossible first love between narrator Esme, who knows she likes girls, and good friend Rohini, who might like girls but whose family is too traditionally Indian for her to even consider openly questioning her sexuality. There is also an improbable but entertaining students-against-administration subplot as the girls (Esme, Rohini, tough-but-beautiful Marcy and good girl Tess, who has fallen out with the A-list Christians) fight a recent ruling against any rap or “associated” apparel or materials at school. They create an alternative 4H (Hip-hop for Heteros and Homos) and hijack an assembly to drop some seriously intellectual beats. Highlighting the clutter of issues are frequent intrusions of a political, message-heavy adult voice. Do teen rappers, even white Jewish lesbians in the Christian heartland, really come up with lines like “We’re done with sex hypocrisy up in this here gynocracy”?Snappy dialogue, likable characters and an original concept make it hard to entirely dismiss this one, but the message overwhelms the good stuff. (Fiction. 14-17)