Donnelly uses the backdrop of environmental awareness and real locations in San Francisco to convey the sheer exhaustion of emotional labor.
Eleven-year-old Cora Davis and her twin, Kyle, both white, formed a tight triad with fellow 11-year-old Sybella Seward, who is biracial black/white, back in second grade based on their shared birthdays, their parents’ professional camaraderie at UC Berkeley, and Sybella’s intuitive understanding of the twins’ imaginary world of Aquafaba. It’s so strong that teachers at Thurgood Marshall Elementary remark that they need to make other friends. But their triad becomes an involuntary quad in fifth grade with increasingly pushy, bragging Marnie Stoll, a white female transfer student. Sybella seems to befriend Marnie, and Cora becomes increasingly passive-aggressive as her jealousy mounts and the kids become involved in a school sustainability project. That introverted Cora is also dealing with her parents’ divorce and signs of possible depression exacerbates the falling-out. A good portion of the book consists of laborious flashbacks establishing how the characters got to this point. Though the author matter-of-factly describes the interracial camaraderie among the characters, she also commits the tiring, United States–old mistake of forcing the only girl of color to use her emotional maturity and intelligence to manage the two white girls’ immaturity and emotional issues. Sybella’s third-person perspective only occasionally punctuates Cora’s tightly focused narrative, compounding the problem.
A bad look indeed. (Fiction. 10-13)