When I started reading this, I did not know that (a) it’s the second book in a series and (b) that it was written in free verse. Both of these were a little off-putting at first, but I need not have feared — I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There was enough backstory built in to the text (and not in an awkward way…) that it didn’t matter that I hadn’t read the first book. And the style of the book was absolutely wonderful.
“You get older
and you are a whole mess of things,
new thoughts, sorry feelings,
big plans, enormous doubts,
going along hoping and getting disappointed,
over and over again,
no wonder I don’t recognize
my little crayon picture.
It appears to be me
and it is
and it is not.”
― Virginia Euwer Wolff, True Believer
The main character is 15 year old LaVaughn. She’s smart and funny and struggling to live up to the goal she and her mother have set: she WILL go to college. More than once, she could have made choices that might have changed her path, but she figures things out and is able to navigate through heartbreak and big expectations. I loved reading about her, and I think a lot of teenagers would, too.
And yes, she’s in the inner city and struggling with poverty and gang violence and teenagers having babies and homosexuality. But this was not a preachy book, nor was it a book where I think the reader will walk away feeling like they read a book with diversity and adversity and it was a chore. It was a good story with interesting characters — and yes, I learned a little about someone who is different than me. Especially in these times, with people rioting in Missouri and Maryland of all places, this is clearly not a bad thing.