Two teens with bad lives connect.
Nicu arrived in “London North” only a month ago. He and his parents came from Romania because now that Nicu is a grown man at age 15, his father must earn money to pay for an arranged bride for Nicu back in Romania (against Nicu’s wishes). Jess has always lived in North London, trapped by a stepfather who beats her mother and makes Jess record it on his phone. The two underdogs meet in a community service program for kids caught stealing and share a mild romance born of desperation. In alternating chapters, they each narrate in first-person free verse. Jess, who’s white, narrates in standard English with touches of vernacular to convey her class. Nicu, who’s Roma and brown-skinned, narrates in an unrealistic and dehumanizing broken English (“Her touching help peace my mental / and my body”). It’s meant to show that English is new to him, but the use of broken language for thoughts inside his head is sharply belittling, precludes nuanced characterization, and is also incongruent with the use of standard English for his parents’ dialogue, also presumably “translated” from Romanian for readers’ benefit. This, along with Nicu’s lack of grooming and unexplained misordering of weekdays, renders Nicu the cheapest stereotype, nullifying the authors’ attempts to confront racism in their plot about bigotry, which includes anti-Roma slurs (as well as Islamophobic and pro-Brexit ones), violence, and injustice.
Addresses persecution while reinforcing it. Skip. (Verse fiction. 14-16)