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A Good Kind of Trouble

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Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.)

But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what?

Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn't think that's for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum.

Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn't face her fear, she'll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.

384 pages, ebook

First published March 12, 2019

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Lisa Moore Ramée

7 books218 followers

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,069 reviews
Profile Image for Betsy.
Author 8 books2,738 followers
July 5, 2019
The good thing about serving on a book committee is that it helps you to read outside of your comfort zone. The bad thing about serving on a book committee is that it makes you read outside of your comfort zone. It’s funny, but as someone who reads a lot of children’s novels, my instinct is to revert back to my 12-year-old self. A steady diet of fantasy, punctuated by the occasional mystery, and I’d be good to go. But being a grown-up means trying different things all the time. Because wouldn't you know it, a lot of the time you end up liking the things you try. Take realistic contemporary fiction. I often do read it as part of my day-to-day job, but it isn’t something I’d instinctively select were it not for the recommendations of review journals and trusted fellow librarians. When Lisa Moore Ramée’s A Good Kind of Trouble started raking in the starred professional reviews, I was intrigued. I knew very little about it, but why not give it a go? The description of the book wasn’t doing it any favors, though, saying it would “capture your heart” and was “incredibly special”. There are better, more accurate, ways of putting those terms, even if they’re entirely true. Ms. Ramée has penned a young woman’s social justice awakening. That moment when you cross over from childhood to something that isn’t quite adulthood, but is on the right path. And if along the way the author is able to lead young readers down that same path, all the better.

Shayla doesn’t get into trouble. She pretty much keeps her head down and her lips zipped. And until this year, that was fine for her. She has her two best friends, her family, her good grades, etc. And yeah, her sister Hana is all about protests and Black Lives Matter but that’s just a Hana thing, right? Yet when a public trial of a policeman comes up with a not guilty verdict and Shayla sees a protest firsthand, she starts thinking of ways that she can make a difference. Small ways, naturally, but sometimes something that seems small can make a huge difference.

For good or for ill, this book is already being compared to Jerry Craft’s New Kid, a comic that covers a lot of the same territory, if in a different format. The difference, however, was pretty clear to me from the get-go. Craft’s book is about the self and how it reacts in a world filled with microaggressions. Ramée’s is far more about the world outside of the self. How you have a hard time seeing outside of your own lens and then suddenly it’s like you can’t unsee anything anymore. Shayla’s certainly concerned about school, her friends, her crushes, sports, etc. but there’s this sneaky secondary plot as well involving her older sister and what’s happening in the wider world. When Shayla marches in a protest for the first time, she physically separates herself from a lot of other middle grade heroes and heroines that talk the talk but refuse to walk the walk. The end result is a book that simultaneously separates itself from the pack.

Children’s books have so many jobs to do that saying “they should all do this” or “they should all do that” is ludicrous. Better to just zero in on what a particular book does particularly well. Take Ms. Ramée’s for example. Her book has the unenviable job of making complex social issues, issues that a fair number of adults have been known to scratch their heads over, comprehensible, even self-evident, to kids. For example, there is Shayla and her friends. One friend is Latinx and one is Asian American. Shayla gets a little grief from her sister and some of the girls at school for not hanging out with black friends instead. Now her reaction to this is exactly what you’d expect to find in a middle grade novel. She defends her choices, points out that diversity in friendship is a good thing, and even calls her little group the United Nations. And in most books that would be the end of that little discussion, but if there’s one thing you’ll learn from A Good Kind of Trouble it’s that difficult conversations don’t get dropped simply because they’ve grown inconvenient. There comes a time in this novel when Shayla’s mother talks to her and gives her some advice on why she might want to have some black friends too. She says, “You may find as you get older that there’s something … comfortable, or I don’t know, comforting, in having friends who can relate to things you might be going through.” The talk makes it clear that her mother is happy for Shayla to keep her friends, but also that she should leave herself open to other possibilities as well. And, later, Shayla herself realizes that it would be nice to have, “A friend who knew being black meant all sorts of things.” That’s the kind of nuance you only get in the best books for kids.

Did I mention at any point here that the book’s fun? And weirdly satisfying in all sorts of ways? There is a moment late in the game when Shayla’s mother gives one of the book’s antagonists a tongue lashing that you just want to read and reread a couple times for the sheer pleasure of witnessing JUSTICE. And when Shayla is then made to apologize to her oppressor she remembers a bit of advice from her father that is one of the wisest lines I’ve read in a while. “Don’t ever leave your enemies empty-handed. Give them a bone to gnaw on or they will keep on trying to bite you.” This is all followed not long thereafter by a pretty darn satisfying ending. The kind where things aren’t perfect but they’re better and our heroine has certainly learned a fair amount about herself, on top of the world around her.

The only part of the book that didn’t gel for me was the subplot with Tyler. He’s a boy in Shayla’s class that has a crush on her, a feeling that is not reciprocated in the least. As a reader, you’re supposed to come to the realization that Shayla’s being unfair to the kid and should be nicer to him. But we’re coming out with this in a post #MeToo era and Tyler seriously steps over some major boundaries in this book. Even before he kisses her (something she confronts him about in time, which is good) he’s physically getting all up in her space. So when Yolanda tells Shayla she should be nicer to him, I wanted someone to back Shayla up, pointing out that the guy has to learn about personal space and pronto. I had visions of older Tyler stalking some girl saying, “Hey! I’m a nice guy!” echoing Yolanda’s statement, but in a twisted way.

I wonder what percentage of kids today has been to protests at some point in their young lives? Certainly it must be higher than I was a child. The idea of protesting something has long since lost its rarity, but I can understand how difficult it would be to work one naturally into a middle grade novel. Folks are sometimes referring to this book as a younger version of The Hate U Give. Maybe, but I worry that kind of designation doesn’t really give credit to what Ramée has put together here. She’s taken the complexity of the real world, with all its police shootings and racism and destructive tendencies and made it personal for young readers. I don’t care what kid you hand this book to. Every single one of them will understand what’s going on here and, maybe, what’s going on in the wider world. The new required reading.

For ages 9-12.
August 14, 2020

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A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE was all kinds of good. Sometimes a middle grade novel can talk down to its audience, but this book is that rare gem that manages to be timeless, perfectly capturing that awkward time in our lives when we're navigating all the major firsts, whether it's a first crush, to the first stirrings of our burgeoning soon-to-be-adult identities.

Shayla is twelve years old. She has two best friends, Julia, who is Japanese, and Isabella, who is Puerto Rican. They call themselves the United Nations because they're proud of their diverse little group. But this year, things are different. Isabella has become really, really pretty, and the boy Shayla likes might like Isabella better. And Julia has started to hang out with an all-Asian group of friends, who are kind of catty and mean, and appropriate Black slang while also looking down on "less favorable" elements of Black culture, such as Black Lives Matter.

In the background of this novel, their community is rocked by several truly devastating murders of Black individuals, and one of the most heartbreaking moment is when Shayla doesn't understand why the murderers aren't punished. It truly says something awful about our country, when something even a child can see is morally reprehensible and unforgivable is excused by those in power. The injustice and sheer futility of that moment moved me to tears, and I was so proud of Shayla when that agony and unfairness pushed her to follow in her sister's footsteps to join the Black Lives Matter movement.

This is a wonderful coming of age story, with a sympathetic heroine who is awkward and unsure of herself, and sometimes selfish, but has a good heart and a loving family, and wants to do what's right. A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE deftly explores a lot of mature themes in a way that's easy to grasp for a middle grade audience without being at all condescending, and I was so impressed at the wide array of topics, whether it was internalized racism, the racism that occurs within other groups of people of color, institutionalized racism that facilitates the ill-treatment of people of color (and specifically BIPOC individuals), and what how sometimes you have to break the rules to do a good thing, if the rules that are set in place are flawed and causing people pain to begin with.

I loved Shayla's whole family, especially her mother and her sister, and the supportive teachers (especially her science teacher and coach!) were wonderful. I also liked how the principal ended up eating her words. That was SO satisfying. Oh-- and the whole character arc with Bernard was wonderful. I totally saw it coming, but it was still immensely satisfying and squee. I simply can't say enough good things about this. It's perfect for middle graders and shares many of the themes that made me love THE HATE U GIVE so much, only toned down for the 10-14 audience.

Definitely, definitely recommend this book.

4 stars
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,780 followers
March 14, 2021
I think I make the mistake of reading reviews after I've read a book to compare my thoughts to others. I'm going to stop doing that because some of the reviews for this book irritate me. This book doesn't need to be compared to The Hate U Give. Every book for youth about the Black experience does not need to be compared to that or Dear Martin. Yes, this book utilizes the BLM movement as the back drop for the story; however, it definitely focuses on identity and dispelling the myth that Black people are a monolith

A Good Kind of Trouble focuses on Shay who, at the start of the novel, is quickly learning the difference between elementary school and junior high. Shay is the type of student who attempts to remain out of trouble at all cost and doesn't want to involve herself in the Black Lives Matter Movement like her sister. While this novel does focus on activism, there is also an important conversation about identity and changing relationships. Most of the Black community knows what it means to be an "oreo." It's a racial slur that is used to describe Black people who are supposedly Black on the outside, but White on the inside. While this is never stated explicitly on page, it is implicated in Shay's experience of trying to navigate her friendships. She's often questioned about why she doesn't hang out with Black people or why she doesn't support Black endeavors. There are conversations related to cultural appropriation. There is an Asian-American character that uses AAVE and Shay is clearly uncomfortable by her use of AAVE and spends time confronting her about it. While I wish that Ramee would have delved more into why this was so problematic, I'm glad that she even thought to include it in the book. It touches on key issues that occur amongst Black people and other POC. As an adult reader, the manner in which some of the topics weren't analyzed or illustrated in a detailed manner including the challenging of some things related to the BLM Movement; however, as I always say about middle grade: I am not the target audience. This book is appropriate for the grades that Ramee was attempting to reach. In fact, there is a part of me that wishes that I had a book like this growing up. Black people are not a monolith and the way in which we choose to navigate the world in terms of our own personal development and social activism varies from person to person. So while this book doesn't delve into the Black Lives Matter movement as much as some other books, it handles it in a way that is accessible for a younger audience. The lack of regard for the Black body and Black lives is an important aspect of the book, but it is not the sole discussion of the book. Ramee even challenges stereotypes that are placed on Black bodies especially Black boys and how these stereotypes even condition the way that Black people think about each other. It's a book that is more complex in nature than people are giving it credit for.

A Good Kind of Trouble is also the perfect insight to a Black girl just experiencing things that are normal for any middle school experience. As stated before, there are conversations related to friendship dynamics, dating, and family structure. Shay struggled quite a bit in the friendship department and it was nice to see a sense of transparency where the characters weren't always afraid to challenge it other. It is also a clear indication that friendships change as we grow older. Some of us are blessed to maintain the same relationships that we had in grade school; however, it's not the reality of most people. It's not realistic for us to want to follow the same paths and Ramee makes this clear when Shay finally makes the decision to become a part of the BLM movement and challenges school guidelines. It's a growth process for her and her attempt to figure out how she wants to become a part of social activism.

Overall, I thought this was a great book especially in terms of writing. The pacing could have been a little better but it definitely is great break for middle grade readers. I'm excited to try more from this author.
Profile Image for Lisa Ramée.
Author 7 books218 followers
March 20, 2020
Wow what a great book--says the author of said book. :) Don't @me anyone. With Covid-19 going on it was time to have some fun.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,152 reviews18.3k followers
July 4, 2020
I’ve been wanting to venture into reading more middle-grade and this was a really great start into that journey.

This was such an impactful and empowering story and once I started listening to the audiobook I did not want to stop listening to it.

It follows a young, black girl who is all about not getting into trouble. Change and uncomfortable situations make her hands itch. But change and uncomfortable situations she does get thrown into and we follow her into junior year and seeing how she deals with said ‘trouble’.

I love that this story was intertwined with everyday young, silly adventures most children get into, whilst addressing current issues. Shayla really comes into her own in this novel and I love how the author navigated her through those changes.

More importantly, I respected how the author gave young kids the power to be able to make changes in their own ways, within their own capacities.

It’s a brilliant story about friendship, individuality, race, standing up for what you believe in and so much more.

I need to get myself a physical copy pronto!
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 5 books793 followers
July 28, 2019
Sometimes people say they wish they had a book when they were younger, but I don't know if I've felt that until I read this. I really, really wish my seventh grade self had this book. I was just like Shayla for a while; I got straight As and was quiet and teachers loved me and getting in trouble was the worst thing I could think of. And then Trayvon and Tamir and Philando and Sandra were killed and all that changed, just like police brutality changes that for Shayla.

I really loved having a book about a Black girl that sort of has the low stakes of middle grade, but everything felt like it was a big deal, if that made sense. It covered friendship issues and crushes and all the normal middle school things. Shayla was normal, but also black, and I loved that. Also loved that her mom was very Black and did not let her get away with anything. That's also my mom. And I really, really appreciated that the author included Asian characters speaking in AAVE, because it's such a big thing, especially since I go to a predominantly white/Asian university now. I like that Shayla was able to air her grievances with how her friends treat her when it comes to race (her best friends are Japanese-American and Latinx) without the friendship falling apart. They talked about the troubles each of them had and I really appreciated.

I wish there had been more of a conversation about cultural appropriation. There sort of was with Julia, the friend who randomly starts speaking AAVE, but it sort of is just Shayla telling her that she says words wrong, and also thinking that Julia speaking that way is annoying. But I wish they talked about it in an accessible way, the way they discussed police brutality.

There was also a part that irritated me, where Shayla wears a Black Lives Matter arm band to school and a boy tells her blue lives matter. Shayla is like "Oh, of course they do!" And then there's a part about how she doesn't hate cops and no one in her family does, etc. I hate the idea that
A) Black people are not allowed to be angry at cops when the law enforcement system in general have brutalized Black people since its inception.
B) That Black people aren't... really allowed to hate anyone. That people are allowed to hate us and we have to love them back or be very gracious.
C) I hated that it didn't delve into that. It's very... disingenuous. Like, it doesn't matter if you don't hate individual cops, the issue is the fact that they are very likely to kill you and they will not be prosecuted. It's the system. It doesn't matter if your Aunt Amy is a cop because it's not about her as an individual.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this overall. I hope girls like Shayla and I find themselves in this book and realize that it's good to get in trouble for important things.
Profile Image for Adriana (SaltyBadgerBooks).
432 reviews18 followers
January 23, 2019
I couldn't put this book down, and was so excited to be able to read it! I cannot wait for it to be released and to own a physical copy! It was a great coming of age middle grade novel! There were so many layers to it and you should all already have this preordered!
Profile Image for CW ✨.
644 reviews1,693 followers
November 23, 2020
Oh, this was good. SO GOOD, so layered and nuanced and such a good children's book.
This is the sort of book I hope all kids, especially Black girls, get the chance to read - this book is important and so empathetic to the challenges of growing up.

- Follows Shayla, who is trouble-averse and really just wants her friends to be around forever and maybe get a boyfriend. When incidences of police brutality become more salient within her community, Shayla has to grapple with how that affects her - and that there may even be a good kind of trouble.
- I just loved this. I'm blown away by how the author has interwoven so many themes and ideas into this book seamlessly - changing friendships, family life, cultural appropriation, crushes, consent, police brutality, protest, racism, and what is 'Blackness'.
- I loved how Shayla grows across the book! She makes plenty of mistakes and she contemplates her priorities and what is important to her; it's a messy process, but also so empathetic and gentle in its development.

Trigger/content warning: police brutality (not explicitly depicted but described), kissing without consent (challenged in-text), racism from school staff, protests
Profile Image for Christy.
1,505 reviews258 followers
March 13, 2019
Really cool way of showing how younger teens can engage in social justice (and how adults are always trying to tell them to be nice and also ignore their voices). Loved Shayla’s parents - encouraging her to use her voice.
Profile Image for Alex Johnson.
384 reviews1 follower
June 28, 2019
I loved this book! Shayla's story perfectly captured middle school in its cringe moments and its social awakening—there were multiple moments that I said, "I definitely said that when I was in middle school." But this novel also dealt with difficult questions of belonging, especially when it comes to race. Well-written middle grades with a lovable main character; highly recommend.
Profile Image for Darla.
3,338 reviews523 followers
February 19, 2019
I agree with the author of this book. All lives matter and it is important for all kids to feel represented in the literature they read. From the author's letter at the beginning of the book, her intention is clear and from the reviews that have already been posted it is evident that many agree with the execution of her plan. From my vantage point as the wife of a police sergeant with 30 years of experience I must add an additional dimension to the dialogue. There is a trend in juvenile literature that I have noticed lately with police/black population interactions producing the very worst of outcomes. This book and others like "Blended" seem to attribute those outcomes to pure racism on the part of law enforcement. What I would contend is that lack of training is often an equal or greater contributor to the tragedy. Thinking about the problem with that additional dimension may help us all to have more empathy on both sides.

Thank you to Balzer + Bray and Edelweiss for a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Gillian.
Author 6 books174 followers
March 13, 2019
Quick to read, hard to put down, and I can already tell that it will stay with me forever. I loved the story so much. Shayla (and her friends & family) are wonderful characters. The writing is honest and perfectly true-to-life, and also very funny at times. I consider it a MUST READ, both for its frank discussion of Black Lives Matter and for its on-the-nose portrayal of Shayla growing up and learning to think "out loud." Highly recommended. I loved it!
Profile Image for Liesl Shurtliff.
Author 13 books669 followers
February 26, 2021
This is a great MG book to help kids (and maybe even adults) understand the BLM movement from the point of view of a child who is not totally sure about her identity as a Black girl and what that means for her place in society, her school, friendships, or even her own family. Heartwarming, thoughtful, and thought-provoking.
June 2, 2021
This book felt so wrong to me. I am a kid myself, and when I read this book it was absolutely nothing like anything I've ever seen any kid do. For one, the only reason Black and White kids would separate to eat lunch, would be because adults tell them that;''Those White people aren't like you, avoid them.'' or ''don't trust any Black kids, they'll hate you.'' racism goes both ways. White people can be raciest but so can Black people. The only way to get past these differences is through love.

Also her principle and other characters are very unrealistic. I mean what kind of principle goes around with scissors cutting of kids arm bands (which is against the Constitution) because she doesn't like the message.
Shayla's sister is also completely illogical; she actively tries to make sure her little sister only has Black friends, and no friends of any other races. That by dictionary definition, is being racist. racism means specifically: prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership in a particular racial or ethnic group.

Profile Image for PinkAmy loves books, cats and naps .
2,304 reviews220 followers
January 20, 2020
Junior High is filled with change for Shayla and her two best friends Isabella and Julia aka The United Nations. New friendships and crushes threaten the trio. Elsewhere Shay’s big sister protests with Black Lives Matters as Shayla becomes more aware of race and how Blacks are marginalized in society and in her school, as well as her own biases.

A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE should be required reading for middle grade students. The Middle School years are challenging, friendship is challenging, crushes are challenging, race is challenging. Lisa Moore Ramee weaves together a simple, yet complicated story about an imperfect tween who is easy to root for, providing no easy answers.

A GOOS KIND OF TROUBLE is a must addition for libraries and classrooms, as well as all readers.
Profile Image for Corinthia Soukup.
51 reviews2 followers
November 27, 2020
I’m confused about this book. If the message is to treat people based on the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin, why is the word ‘black’ capitalized every time and the word ‘white’ never capitalized?

I don’t know what this has to do with anything, but Momma says, “Janice isn’t Black. She’s white.”

One of many examples of what I felt to be very racist writing.

Anti racism is an important topic that kids need to read and learn and think about. This book is not the appropriate tool for that job.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
1,647 reviews52 followers
June 19, 2020
Another read with students that I absolutely loved. This book is SO topical (a Black person was just killed by a cop, on video, as the book begins).

I also loved that it's perfectly middle grades--versus for example The Hate U Give has a sex scene that makes it a little inappropriate for sixth graders--and still addresses weighty issues.

There's a LOT going on here--not just the bigger picture Black Lives Matter stuff, but friendships growing apart, and teenage romances starting up, and kids dealing with the fact that not all their friends look like them and sometimes that creates disparity that is hard to overcome.

My students loved it. We had some great discussions about Black Lives Matter, about protesting, about policing, and also about how it feels when your friends seem to be changing, and how to handle it when your mom has different rules than your friends' moms, and what it feels like to have a crush versus what it feels like to be crushed on by someone you don't like.

It is a fantastic book for sixth graders. Sixth grade girls anyway. The boys who signed up for this book then never showed up for any of the discussions so... (Remote learning = NOT a success.)
Profile Image for Amy | Foxy Blogs.
1,407 reviews970 followers
January 29, 2023
"A Good Kind of Trouble" is the story of Shayla, a twelve-year-old girl who is trying to navigate the complexities of junior high school and find her place in the world. The story explores the themes of race, identity, and activism in a way that is perfect for middle-grade readers.

Audiobook source: Hoopla
Narrator: Imani Parks
Length: 6H 46M
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,100 reviews130 followers
February 27, 2019
I love this middlegrade so much! Shayla reminds me a lot of me as a kid: quiet, almost desperate not to get in trouble and sticking close to a group of friends. But, like a lot of us learn, she starts to see that maybe there are things that are worse than getting in trouble. It's important to care about things and to talk about things that matter, even if they make people uncomfortable.

This is about social justice but it's also about starting to navigate a new school with new people and having friends start acting differently. It's something that I think most girls can relate to, regardless of how politically involved they may or may not be. 

I loved everything about this book. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Paige.
25 reviews1 follower
January 9, 2020
I liked this book a lot. I think it involved many different real life problems. I think it also sends a message to kids that it’s ok to stand up for something you believe in. Shay is a character this has a lot of questions about the world and her life, and reading this book helps you understand what it’s like to go through such difficult times at such a young age. Overall I think this book was pretty good and helps teach kids a very important lesson.
Profile Image for Renata.
2,498 reviews339 followers
June 5, 2020
LOVED this book. Shayla is such a great narrator and perfectly captures so much of middle school friendship/self-image issues that almost everyone can relate to, while having her own strong voice. The way she and her classmates grapple with the Black Lives Matter movement (and the police brutality and other issues behind BLM) is presented so well, this will be a great intro for a lot of tweens (and even older readers looking for something intro level).
Profile Image for Joyce Yattoni.
298 reviews23 followers
July 29, 2020
Great middle school read. Shayla and her friends experience all the ups and downs of middle school. One day you are besties, the next day you are not. One day you think the big kid is a bully, the next day you realize you got him wrong. Shayla eventually found her voice in the story and stood up for something she believed in, although it took her awhile to get there. Good backstory on black lives matter.
Profile Image for halfirishgrin.
288 reviews177 followers
August 7, 2018
This book wasn't quite what I was expecting it to be but I really enjoyed it!

It's a pretty quiet book about a young black girl who is learning to navigate the world around her and understanding that blackness can come with its own set of burdens that other people don't have to deal with.

There's a theme of police violence that mostly exists in the background. There was a shooting of an unarmed black man and an ongoing trial for almost the length of the book. Even though it's not always the most prominent thing for Shay, it does become the driving force for a lot of things in the book, including Shay's own development and how she understands people and the world around her. I think this was handled really well and realistically. It's a heavy topic but it didn't feel heavy or sad to read, but at the same time I think the importance of it shines through.

I also liked that it touched on things like Shay's Asian friend using black slang but not supporting BLM, or even thinking that Shay isn't black enough. It has a pretty realistic portrayal of friendship, and how tweens drifts apart, get jealous, etc etc. Shay wasn't always the most likable character but she was very realistic and relatable.

One thing that I think could have used a bit more nuance was when the other black kids at Shay's school are mean to her because they don't think she's black enough. It felt like it happened very quickly and wasn't given enough space to really be explored. A little like an afterthought.

I also thought that one of the teachers was very heavily queer coded, and this was used as a way to compare to Shay's struggles, but because the teacher wasn't textually queer it didn't quite work or translate, and instead kind of undermined the point.

Overall though, this was a great read. A really powerful MG that touches on some serious topics but still manages to be kind of light and fun.
Profile Image for K..
3,667 reviews1,006 followers
March 13, 2021
Trigger warnings: racism, cultural appropriation, racial profiling, police brutality, police shooting, bullying.

3.5 stars.

I feel like this was trying to be The Hate U Give for a middle grade audience. I really liked the characters and it deals well with serious issues like teachers singling out Black kids in the classroom. But the first chunk of the story had so much focus on pre-teen drama about friendships and boys and your mean mother, and I wanted more of what we got in the second half of the story.

Add in the fact that the title references John Lewis and he's never mentioned in the book and I didn't quite love this the way I'd been hoping to. But also I think I might officially be too old for middle grade, so take all of this with a grain of salt.
Profile Image for Ris Sasaki.
912 reviews162 followers
February 25, 2021
2,5 ⭐

This is one of those books that I feel torn about because the first half I absolutely hated it and the second half had so many good moments, but not enough to peek my overall enjoyment.
Also, it was one of those cases that the story was told in a way that was too young and childish for my taste which was kinda weird when you think about that the main character is actually 12 years old and almost going to 8th grade...

Overall, I must say that this is an important read especially for young and black people, but unfortunately it didnt hit me as much as I wanted to.

(Also the rep for the asian characters were so so in my opinion)
Profile Image for Sarah B.
836 reviews16 followers
January 31, 2021
Wow...it really surprised me how much I loved this book! And the reason why I loved it so much was because I could really relate to the main character so much! The fact that she was of a different race didn't matter; I still understood her so clearly and the way she saw things. The fact that I'm an adult now didn't matter either (although I know many adults have problems relating to characters in YA books I had absolutely no problems with this one - it was like I was back in school). In here Shayla is in seventh grade.

Shayla almost seems to be on the spectrum in here. I don't know if this was intended by the author or if she was written this way by accident...but it's because of this and how she sees the world that I can relate so well to her. She doesn't seem to understand the social stuff around her very well. It clearly confuses her. A lot. Things that the other students somehow instinctively know she doesn't. A good example is with her attempt to wear make-up: she doesn't understand she should sneak it out of the house to put on at school and instead comes down into the kitchen at home to get caught wearing it by her mother! And later in the story when she first heard about people walking on the highway during a peaceful protest, she asks "did their car break down?" - and she asks this because she knows one isn't supposed to walk on the highway, so she can't imagine any other reason why someone would be doing that. She also does a nervous thing with her hands throughout the book which could possibly be some form of stimming. She worries about getting in trouble by breaking rules so she's very careful not to break any rules. That also sounds like the spectrum to me, as people on the spectrum have a thing about rules. Lots of situations make her nervous or fearful.

In here readers can learn about the Black Lives Matter protests and what it is all about. There's a trial mentioned through little snips, armbands and Shay attends a few peaceful protests with her parents. The armbands causes a few problems at school and she has to decide how to deal with that: should she stand up for herself and what she thinks is right? Things are also discussed a bit in class and different people have different ideas about it all...but the book does answer many questions relating to the subject and they are explained in simple terms.

The majority of the story is in the home and school setting. She has to deal with various classmates. There's a scary bully she has to work with in science lab, there's a cute boy who she likes but he likes her friend, she joins the track team but she's not very coordinated with movement so those hurdles she has to jump over are a problem! She also learns to deal with an annoying boy who won't leave her alone! There's also a few problems with her best friends as they are getting older and trying new things, learning who they are.

More interesting is the fact she doesn't really seem to understand her other black classmates very well and they also don't understand her. They think she's stuck up (she's all that) but it's just because she has to best friends from elementary school: one Japanese- American and one Puerto Rican. There were very few blacks at her grade school so there really wasn't the opportunity to get close to another girl of her own race. She sees things simply: she wants to spend lunch with her two friends and what's wrong with that? I think her outlook on this also seems to fit the spectrum.

This is just a wonderful book! I really loved it. And I pretty much read in it one sitting even though that took several hours. I just was totally hooked and drawn into the world that the author created here.

This story takes place in Los Angeles.
Profile Image for Kelly Osborne.
100 reviews
August 6, 2021
This was a great read and one I’m excited to recommend to students this fall. Handles the Black Lives Matter movement in an age appropriate way but without condescension or minimizing its importance.

Loved that there were no white main characters and that Shayla’s friend group confronted their different struggles and talked about them openly with each other. The author didn’t delve into the problems of the Asian character using AAVE even though it clearly bothered Shayla, so I think maybe a middle grade reader might miss that point.

My only real question or point of critique is that the queer-coded teacher felt a little stereotypical. It’s obviously great that there is a queer teacher featured so prominently in the story, but it’s a little too… overtly un-overt? Like he literally wears flamboyant scarves and never openly says he’s gay or queer. I just think in 2021 middle grade readers could handle reading about an openly gay teacher and don’t necessarily need the scarves as an identifying marker haha. It felt like the way LGBTQIA+ characters were written back in the 2000s. Anyway a small point in an otherwise excellent story!
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