Part ’hood fairy tale, part slice of life, this warm but uneven chronicle sees a pair of twins from Atlanta achieve hard-won and unexpected successes.
After his 32nd stay in juvenile prison, DeMarco, sporting a facial tattoo he gave himself, goes home determined to go back to school and stay out of trouble. He returns to the Bluff, the poor neighborhood where his family lives, and finds that his mother, an alcoholic, has been neglecting the house and his baby brother Devin. Meanwhile, DeMarco's twin, Jasmine, who narrates some of the chapters, has become involved with a group of dangerous girls and is being sexually threatened by her mother's boyfriend. After her new “friends” leave her at a high-class party, evidently drugged, Jasmine is rescued by a heroic gentleman who launches her into a modeling career that seems too good to be believed—but is never shown to be so. The large and diverse cast of characters, some developed better than others, adds depth to the portrayal of the Bluff, and the narrative makes many straightforward yet insightful observations about race, poverty and injustice. The book could benefit from another round of editing, however: A final section feels tacked on, and a few points of exposition are repeated unnecessarily.
Despite some flaws, there is heart and wisdom to be found here. (Fiction. 12 & up)