TRACE by Pat Cummings


Age Range: 12 - 14
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In this spirited ghost story, 13-year-old Trace is haunted by more than the memories of the car accident that killed his parents.

Theodore Raymond “Trace” Carter, an African-American boy from Baltimore, is still adjusting to life in Brooklyn with his new guardian, his eccentric aunt, when he goes to the New York Public Library and finds himself face to face with the weeping ghost of a little black boy. Though he is a little intrigued, he’s more frightened, and Trace tries to block their encounters from his mind until the research for his history-class project thrusts him into a past tragedy at the NYPL to which he is unwittingly bound. In her first novel, picture-book veteran Cummings carefully weaves in subtle clues to help readers through the beautifully paced chapters, leading them to an ending that delights and comforts. Unfortunately, the road to the end is made extremely challenging by Trace’s persistent misogyny and his unnecessary speculation about the perceived sexuality of two of his aunt’s women friends; a troubling scene in which Trace is allowed to get drunk and miss school lands with no interrogation. These incidents simultaneously developmentally age the book above its recommended audience of 8- to 12-year-olds and present a barrier to deep engagement with the overall narrative arc. His classmates’ unquestioned conflations of varied ethnic and racial experiences are further dissonant.

A compelling yarn that unravels when it comes to considerate cultural representation. (Paranormal mystery. 12-14)

Pub Date: April 2nd, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-06-269884-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2019


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