Screenplaydiva's Reviews > The Queen Bee of Bridgeton

The Queen Bee of Bridgeton by Leslie DuBois
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Apr 13, 2011

really liked it
Read in May, 2011

THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON by Leslie DuBois is a refreshing novel featuring an African-American protagonist rarely found in young adult fiction. However, I must say, that books are showcasing more ethnic and diverse characters which is much needed in a world with all kinds of readers. I certainly like relate to characters, but I also enjoy learning about people who have different life experiences than my own. That’s the reason for escaping into a great book, isn’t it?

Sonya Garrison of THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON fits this bill perfectly. At 15, Sonya dreams of being a ballet dancer and escaping the dangerous projects which she calls home. When Sonya is given the opportunity to follow in her older sister’s footsteps by attending the prestigious Bridgeton Academy, it’s a chance for her to see what life is like outside her world of daily drive-by shootings and a poor community desperately clinging to hope.

Her sister, Sasha, is determined to get out of Venton Heights, but right now it’s rough-going. Their mother is a single parent who kicked their father out years ago for dwindling away their money and she has to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Embarrassed by where they live, Sasha and Sonya never breathe a word to anyone about their home life, especially at school.

Where Sasha hopes to leave Venton Heights behind through her outstanding grades and academic smarts, Sonya desires to dance her way into a new life with the dream to join the Russian Ballet. Sonya’s teacher sees promise in her and wants her to audition for The DiRisio Academy in Italy. All is going well for the two girls, even though Sonya tries to remain as inconspicuous as she can within the white-faced halls of Bridgeton and just get by with her dancing abilities. Her grades are far from stellar. But soon Sonya becomes distracted when Bridgeton’s star basketball player, Will Maddox, who also happens to be white, shows interest in her. Sonya is flattered but a little worried. Will is definitely cute, but he has some baggage of his own. He has OCD, he’s depressed over his dead parents, and to top it off he’s a sex addict. Yup! You heard me right. He’s practically been with every girl in school. (Movie role will be played by Charlie Sheen…well too old now. Just kidding!)

Does Sonya really want to get involved with someone like that? Not really. But Sonya’s heart tells her differently. Finding out how Will wants to change his wicked ways, Sonya falls hard for him. Will sees Sonya for who she is: a bright, talented girl with a fantastic future. He wants to be part of her life. Their relationship soon attracts the attention of Bridgeton’s mean girls who would rather see Sonya sent back to Venton Heights humiliated and ruined. Yet Sonya is determined to hold her head up high even if it means playing at their dirty games.

The world of THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON is real and believable. It took me into the heart of what it feels like to be an African-American kid from the projects. THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON also shows the reality of the way some people think and not liking someone for the color of their skin. When people don’t know someone who is different from themselves, it’s easy to make assumptions or fall into believing stereotypes. Except for Will who loves Sonya and doesn’t want her to be someone she’s not. This is a nice balance in the story. Bridgeton Academy is upper-crust and a far cry from Venton Heights. It’s interesting to see how the two worlds collide.

Sonya is a character to cheer for. She’s feisty, lovable and has a hilarious narrative voice that shines on the page. On the other hand, Sasha is often bossy towards her sister. With no parental figure at home, Sasha feels she has to shape Sonya in her school life and also in her social life. Sonya’s ballet teacher, Miss Alexander, is rigid and strict but wants what’s best for her students. The mean girls, Ashley, Lauren and Brittany, are the typical brats who throw their snobby weight around and think they own the school. They are nasty to anyone who is different from them and what’s worse is they get away with it. Will is crush-worthy and everything I wanted in a romantic interest for Sonya.

THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON is sweet, heartfelt, funny and authentic. It’s filled with surprises and twists. Though the plot has been done before, as far as the mean girls bullying some poor soul at school, the characters and Sonya’s dancing are the novel’s strength. The pacing is terrific and the novel has a solid sense of time and place. THE QUEEN BEE OF BRIDGETON is independently written but it’s extremely strong in writing, voice and description. I’m looking forward to the second book in the Dancing Dream series, THE DEVIL OF DIRISIO.

Although, I’m usually not one for covers showing heads and/or bodies cut-off at the top of books, the cover is still attractive and fits the story line.

Review posted on my blog "That's Swell!" and Copyrighted by Reel Swell Productions.
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03/30/2016 marked as: read

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