Isabella is a gifted 11-year-old pianist. She is also caught between two parents who have divorced.
Every week now sees what Isabella calls the “Great Exchange,” a ritual when she is handed off at the mall from one parent to another. Living in two places with different rules, each parent with a new partner, is a psychological juggling act. Isabella is also becoming ever more aware of her identity as a biracial child, with a black dad and white mother. The one constant in Isabella’s life is school. There, she has friends both black and white as well as an English teacher who works to provide culturally inclusive lessons for his class. As Isabella goes back and forth between parents, the issue of race becomes more and more prevalent in family discussions. And after a noose is found hanging in the school locker of one of Isabella’s best friends, a black girl, the story opens the door to more serious racist encounters. What begins as the story of a lively young piano player caught between two new families inexorably becomes a piercing interrogation of everyday racism that culminates in a terrifying, all-too-believable confrontation between Isabella and a cop. Isabella’s genuine 11-year-old voice captures events rarely seen in middle-grade fiction but too often seen by actual middle graders.
A book that offers readers a stark look at the apartheidlike reality that exists for black people in America. (Fiction. 8-12)