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by Nikki Grimes

Age Range: 9 - 14

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59990-284-5
Publisher: Bloomsbury

A young tomboy comes of age on and off the basketball court.

In free-flowing free-verse poems, multi–award-winning author and poet Grimes (A Girl Named Mister, 2010, etc.) here explores the riot of hormones and expected gender roles that can make negotiating the preteen years such a challenge. Twelve-year-old Joylin “Jockette” Johnson prefers jeans, T-shirts and one-on-one basketball games with her father or friend Jake to conforming to the more demure, feminine image her mother has of her. Sassy, self-assured Joy enjoys the simple math of her life—“friends / plus family / plus sports”—until she begins to notice “two weird mounds ruining / the perfect flatness / of [her] chest” and gets her first period, which she deems, “the end of life / as I know it.” Beset by physical changes, Joy also finds herself witness and prey to unfamiliar behavior; Jake begins to show interest in her friend KeeLee, and Joy herself tries to adopt a more feminine persona to attract the attention of Santiago, a fellow basketballer with “sweet brown curls / bouncing above killer green eyes.” Though Grimes’ plot development is rather predictable—a life-threatening accident leads Joy to reassess her priorities—her accessible verse and clear themes of self-acceptance and open-mindedness ring true.

A work that should help adolescent readers find the courage and humor to grow into the individuals they already are. (Verse fiction. 9-14)