Street-smart, heartwarming and hopeful without being preachy, the latest from Simone (Upgrade U, 2011, etc.) opens with 16-year-old Gem and her little brother Malik arriving at another in a series of foster homes.
Readers of the author's previous books will recognize Gem's new foster family: Cousin Shake, Ms. Minnie, Ms. Grier and Ms. Grier's daughter, Toi, and son, Man-Man. Although Malik is immediately won over by Cousin Shake's warmhearted but goofy antics, Gem has grown distrustful and used to disappointment. In what feels almost like a fairy tale, however, Gem is taken under Man-Man's wing and fortuitously reunited with Pop, the best friend she hasn't seen or heard from since sixth-grade. Support system in place, Gem slowly builds a new life for herself. She meets a boy and starts a romance, develops a rivalry with one of Pop's friends, and even makes moves toward playing basketball, a sport she loves but had given up. The dialogue and narrative voice are fresh, smart and cutting, full of clever comebacks and Internet-generation slang (S.M.H., “I am pissed.org”). Unfortunately, a relationship conflict at the end is resolved in a way that seems to suggest boys should be trusted above girls.
Otherwise, warm, uplifting and entertaining. (Fiction. 12 & up)