Seck’s debut novella presents a young woman’s struggle with unrequited love—and her eventual triumph.
“What can be as horrible as loving someone who doesn’t love you back?” asks young Bijou as this story opens. She left the warm, familiar comforts of her home in Guinea, Conakry, West Africa, where her friends and neighbors were like family, and was thrust into the mysterious, complex world of adolescence in the United States. Bijou’s parents enroll her in Washington I.M., a rigorously academic institution with unwritten rules and a rigid social structure. As a result, Bijou is lonely; her bus driver is one of her only friends. However, she soon falls for the good-looking Gracious, a young man who’s fated to break her heart. Her love for him shocks her and she finds herself defenseless against his charms despite his attachment to his girlfriend—the wealthy, beautiful, and arrogant Bee, the popular students’ ringleader. Bee sizes up her competition and sets out to destroy Bijou by accusing her of theft and turning other students against her. But Bijou remains hopeful despite her isolation, and she soon finds reassurance and comfort in Alex, a fellow student whose love and admiration helps heal the emotional wounds that Gracious inflicted upon her. This coming-of-age tale traces the trajectory of a fragile young woman as she becomes stronger and more confident. Bijou’s voice is raw and convincing as she uses the halting English of a recent immigrant. Her story, while familiar, takes on a new edge as she searches for her own identity while also struggling with culture shock. Her tale of rejection and acceptance is also a story of racial tension and the cruelty of the intolerant. The chapters read like stream-of-consciousness pieces from Bijou’s diary in which she compellingly describes her feelings. The portrayal of her process as she learns to respect herself makes this a rewarding, important read for adolescents everywhere.
An engaging story of an immigrant’s journey to growth and maturity.