Metai Johnson and Jamila Phillips have been inseparable since they were toddlers, but now the pressures of hard secrets and new friends threaten to sever their friendship in the wake of a summer apart.
The chapters alternate between the perspectives of Mila and Tai, allowing each distinctive character an authentic and complex voice as they navigate difficult issues facing many American preteens. Mila (also known as Bean, but she’d just as soon not be) is just returning from a summer at Aunt Jacq’s in The Woods, away from her less-affluent neighborhood, the Cove. Tai can’t wait to see her, especially as she’s grown close with her crush, Roland, and needs her best friend to share the rush. Yet as they reunite, both friends begin to realize that something is tangibly different—and the roots of this difference may be in an uncomfortable incident that took place the previous April at Tai’s. The emerging conflict will surely come to a head as they both prepare for the high-stakes audition for the local talented-and-gifted arts program, where they hope to continue to develop themselves as dancers and to stay away from the dangerous pull of street life. The author weaves in a keen sense of black youth culture, including emoji-filled text messages, fly hairstyles, and beloved nicknames that won’t go away, while powerful, flowing use of African-American Vernacular English gives the novel warmth, spirit, and familiarity.
Chase’s middle-grade debut dazzles in its exploration of the complicated lives of two very different young black girls in language that will meet its primary audience of black girl readers in their hearts. (Fiction. 8-12)