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What Lane?

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"STAY IN YOUR LANE." Stephen doesn't want to hear that--he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

144 pages, Hardcover

First published April 14, 2020

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Torrey Maldonado

8 books81 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 245 reviews
Profile Image for Karina Blackburn.
30 reviews2 followers
March 10, 2023
Update: I cleared my star rating because I think this book can be used as a learning tool and the rating doesn't reflect my complicated feelings about the book.

I understand why people like this book. I think that this book is a good one to read when trying to begin a conversation with children about race, prejudice, racism, and even police brutality. This book also brings up the topic of white allyship. The page count and easy language lends itself to being more accessible to reluctant readers, and having Stephen as the POV character also gives boys (black or otherwise) someone that they can latch onto easily.

However, there are things in this book that give me pause, mainly the depiction of Stephen's Black father and white mother. We only see his parents on about three separate occasions in the book, and when we do see them, they are discussing how to talk to Stephen about race and how the world views him. His mother insists he is "mixed" (which he is) but his father insists that he is Black and that the world will not stop to consider whether or not he is mixed (which is also true). If you're still reading to this point, I'll number my issues below:

1) Stephen's mother is a white woman who, despite having a son that the world sees as Black, refuses to discuss things like race and police brutality with him in the interest of keeping him "innocent". There are some real mothers out there like this. Though she does admit that as a white woman, she will never have the same life experience as her husband and her son do, she does nothing much beyond that. She sighs in discontent when her husband explains that Stephen being mixed does not extend him any "White Privilege", she leaves the room when her husband insists on talking to their son about issues like 12-year-old Tamir Rice being shot and killed by cops--I don't even think she speaks directly to Stephen at all in this book until the end. I dislike her willingness to keep her son ignorant about the real world and I think it would have been impactful to show Stephen's mother working past her reluctance to talk about the real issues that plague her son and have her sit down him and her husband so they could discuss it as a family. We see throughout the book that Stephen's best friend Dan is an example of a white ally, I think it would've been nice to see Stephen's mother be a white ally as well.

2) Stephen's father. While he does not shy away from discussing things with Stephen, he does not hold his wife accountable for also talking to their son. This makes him a hypocrite when he advises Stephen to teach his white friends about black issues. If he cannot convince the mother of his child to sit and have an open discussion with their son about race, how can he expect his 12-year-old son to do so with his peers?


Overall, I do recommend that parents and teachers read this ALONGSIDE their children and be willing to discuss these issues openly, no matter how uncomfortable it might make you. (If you feel the same way as Stephen's mom, just lead with love. It is possible to still treat your children as children and keep them informed at the same time). I think that this book is a great jumping off point for kids to be introduced to and begin their own research on the topics that come up, and would work well as a book club pick.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,192 reviews724 followers
June 17, 2020
A very short and relatively simple middle grade story that is 100% a strong “message” book about race and growing up a black male in NYC. The sweet spot for this is 5th-7th grades.
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,909 reviews4,794 followers
February 13, 2022
This is a difficult one for me to rate and review. On the one hand, I think it's a good conversation starter for those figuring out how to discuss race with their children; however, I had some serious issues with the character development.

What Lane? focuses on Stephen, a young biracial boy who's beginning to recognize the manner in which the world treats him differently from his White peers. It starts small with Stephen noticing that while hanging with his White friend Dan people will target and reprimand him for certain behaviors while allowing Dan to get away with the same behavior. The tension further ensues when Dan's cousin Chad openly shows his disdain for Stephen. Stephen's father then makes it a point to have a conversation about his identity and that being bi-racial doesn't exempt the world from seeing him as a Black boy. As the novel progresses, Stephen begins to reconnect with Black friends and then wonders what lane does he fit into.

While I liked that Maldonado does address the complexity of being bi-racial in America, I don't think he did a great job with the character development of Stephen's parents. Stephen's mother is almost naïve to what Stephen may potentially face in the real world. As a reader, it felt like she wanted ignore the fact that there was a good chance that the world wasn't going to see him as bi-racial, but as Black. While I know that this is a thing and there is nothing wrong with wanting your child to be secure in their identity, I just found it rather awkward that Stephen's father was lowkey telling him he was Black while his mother was telling him something different. The messaging felt inconsistent. Also, I didn't particularly like the fact Stephen wasn't honest about a physical altercation at the end of the book which felt coded as racially charged. It just didn't sit well with me especially when it served as an opportunity to address bullying.

I think that this novel does address some universal themes like friendship and fitting in regardless of racial background which a lot of young readers will relate to. It was great seeing Stephen really connect with what it means to be a Black boy or man in America. While it's a narrative that some adult readers will be familiar with, I think it is a great conversation starter for a younger audience especially those talking about race for the first time. The pacing of the book was a little slow at times, but I still found it to be a quick read. Overall, it's a solid read. I just had quite a few questions about the characterization of the parents.
Profile Image for Christina Carter.
242 reviews32 followers
February 17, 2020
Note: Review of Advance Readers Copy - Book releases 5/2020

Twelve-year-old Stephen can't be pigeonholed into any one lane. He is more than the Black kid who hangs out with his white friends watching Into the Spiderverse or Stranger Things, the same kid who sometimes also hangs with his Black friends but never the two groups at the same time. He's more than the biracial kid whose mom sees him as mixed while the rest of the world only sees him as Black. He's more than someone's son, adored by his parents while also being considered a threat or troublemaker in the eyes of those who accept the images and narratives that prevail in the media. Stephen can be wavy in any lane he chooses and when he finds his voice and the courage to stand up, the sky's the limit.

Stephen is in middle school now and he is dealing with things that he has never experienced before. He's starting to notice how he is being treated differently from his white friends. He asks his dad a very important question, "Dad, why is racist stuff happening to me all of a sudden? I mean, in elementary it wasn't like this..." and his dad's response is one I imagine can be heard in the homes of many families who are trying to have The Talk with their sons and daughters. He says, "...You are not a little boy anymore. People outside are starting to see you differently and a lot of white people see boys with your height and they don't see your age. They see what they imagine or what the media teaches them to think about Black men - maybe that we're threats or troublemakers."

His dad shares advice with him that certainly echoes conversations we've had with our own son. He tells him that "We can't do everything our white friends can. You have to think twice before you act once." And much like Stephen, I think my son used to think that we were overreacting when we would say things like that to him. It breaks my heart that there are people who would look at my son whom I love, the twenty-year-old who still loves his momma, who is oftentimes still his goofy self while being every bit brilliant, as any sort of threat or someone to fear. I remember breaking down in tears over this very conversation in grad school in front of a room filled with white classmates. We watched so many videos that were meant to "school us on the struggle" and when I rose to speak, by the time I was finished, I wasn't the only one with tear-filled eyes.

Torrey Maldanado knocked it out the park with What Lane?! It is down-to-earth real and addresses racism candidly in under 200 pages. I can only imagine what this book is going to mean for every reader. For the young Black boys who will read it and see their experience between the pages. For the conversations it will spark in the classrooms that will read this book aloud with their students. For those who are or will soon become allies, as well as those whose eyes will be opened and how the removal of blinders will change lives. The publisher recommends this book for 5th grade and up but you know your learning community and may want to consider reading it to your 4th grade students as well. I look forward to adding a copy of this book to our collection when it releases this spring (May 2020).   
Profile Image for Kadi P.
785 reviews96 followers
September 15, 2021
*More like 3.8 stars than 4.*

“Stay in my lane? Really? What lane?” ... “[...]the whole world is my lane.”

An interesting story written from the perspective of a young mixed boy as he navigates the world of societal racism.

The constant slang and incorrect grammar was annoying for me as I’m the kind of reader who will correct every grammar mistake I come across in my head as I read. Yes, I am technically part of gen z (I’m only 20), so I understood some of the slang thankfully, but not all of it. You could tell this was a recently published book by the references to movies like Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse and Shazam!, hence the slang used was also recent.

Perhaps the slang was less “cool kid talk” and more AAVE (African American Vernacular English) that is used in places in America, especially neighbourhoods with black people and mixes of white and black people. This suggested that this book wasn’t targeted at everyone. I found it a little sad that slang/AAVE held back the book and made it sort of inaccessible to those who don’t know the lexis of those areas because the message behind the book was important.

And the message was also great too. Relevant and thought-provoking. It really made me think more about how society forces you from a young age to constrain yourself to the way they want and view you to be and it gave new meaning to the word “lane”, one I didn’t think of from simply reading the book’s title.

The exploration of racism and other issues were crucial and almost impressively approached. I think this book would be great as required reading for middle graders in America.
Profile Image for Lorie Barber.
557 reviews36 followers
September 17, 2020
First, I am beyond grateful to Nancy Paulsen for sharing an early copy of this book with our reading group. I feel so lucky to be one of the first to absorb the story.

If I could give WHAT LANE? infinite stars, I would.

Three words to describe this book?

Torrey Maldonado does more to tackle racism in a 126-page middle-grade novel than I’ve ever seen. And he writes in a way that is relatable to kids of all races. WHAT LANE? is both affirming to kids of color and the systemic racism they experience on the daily, and is the best How-To-Be-a-CoConspirator workbook for white kids. Moving beyond “I’m uncomfortable” into “I’m walking by you, behind you, in front of you” is where this generation of white kids needs to be if we are going to eradicate the waters of racism that surround our friends of color. WHAT LANE? can help them do just that.

I love that WHAT LANE? is “short,” by middle-grade standards. Because the topic is relevant and moves kids toward uncovering biases and looking inward, the crisp writing focuses on character actions, rather than wasting time throwing unnecessary subplots and superfluous characters at the reader. As I read (in one sitting - I couldn’t put it down) I found myself cheering for - and learning alongside - Stephen as his eyes open to his reality. I cried in some parts, was terrified in others. and my heart almost exploded with joy in the pivotal scene at the park. I want the same for my students of all races as we navigate these waters together. A definite add to my classroom library and possible read aloud to begin the year next fall.

Bravo, Torrey Maldonado.
Profile Image for Julia.
763 reviews
February 26, 2021
I read this as an audiobook, narrated by the author. The voices he does for different characters were distracting to me, but it wasn't a bad production, and could be a great option for some readers.

First, the pros of this book: despite the characters being 6th graders, this book skews WAY younger. Think beginning chapter book readers. It discusses difficult topics (Black Lives Matter, Tamir Rice and other victims of police violence, racial profiling by cops, retail workers, and neighbors, microaggressions, white privilege, and more) without any main characters being shot, killed, or arrested. Because of this gentleness, it could be an excellent conversation starter for younger readers who may not be ready for something older, like Dear Martin or The Hate U Give, or something more realistically traumatic, like Ghost Boys. Or, more accurately, it is an excellent conversation starter for gatekeeping/anxious white parents.

The cons: this book is pedantic AF. The entire thing is one large object lesson about racism. The concluding lines demonstrate this:

"Maybe I need to think deeper about this […]stuff. […]I need to wake up more of my white friends so they see prejudice is real."

Because of this, the book suffers, as the goal of Making A Point comes before everything else. I struggled to suspend my disbelief over and over again as a mixed-race read-as-Black 12-year-old, who has a cell phone and the Internet at school and at home, who lives in NYC today, was shocked to discover for the first time that he is treated differently from his white friends by everyone in society. He learns of BLM and Tamir Rice for the first time in these pages. He is not yet afraid of cops. He doesn't know about racial profiling in stores or by gentrifying white people in his neighborhood. His father has "the talk" with him about how to stay safe around cops for the first time. At twelve years old. Any middle schooler (or 5th grader, for that matter) I know would be insulted by the cluelessness of this character. I, personally, as a white public librarian, was insulted by the character of Stephen's mother, a white public librarian who has so far failed her Black/mixed son by pretending racism isn't relevant to him yet. At twelve years old. I know full well that this is very realistic for a lot of librarians, but this isn't realistic for a 12-year-old Black kid.

So then, who is this book for? Certainly not the kids of color, who know about this much, much younger than these characters. They might enjoy reading a book where people actually talk about these issues, but this book is too patronizing for that. Is it for clueless white kids, to teach them to be good allies? If so, do we think, in 2020, that a book this message-heavy will land successfully? If the white kids are open to this message, then they will want something that goes deeper. If they are already antagonistic to these ideas, then something this pedantic will backfire.

And finally, the motif of "lanes" was so, so heavy-handed. Talk about punching your readers in the face with your symbolism, over and over again.

Profile Image for Laura Gardner.
1,670 reviews112 followers
October 1, 2020
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this INCREDIBLE slim MG book about a Black biracial boy learning about #BlackLivesMatter and examining his own identity.
It’s only 148 pages, but is a powerful read perfect for ages 9-13. WHAT LANE would be a great choice for a classroom read aloud or book club. There’s a lot to unpack here and many of the same arguments we are hearing about in the press play out in this book like all lives matter vs. black lives matter and the myth of being “color blind.”
This is book 94/109 for me from the @projectlitcomm booklist. #readwoke
#readblackbooks #projectlit #whatlane #torreymaldonado #weneeddiversebooks #mglit #mgbooks #futurereadylibs
Profile Image for Alexis.
657 reviews
June 20, 2021
Thank you Torrey Maldonado and Nancy Paulsen Books for sharing What Lane? with the LitReviewCrew in exchange for an honest review!

This book is what my library, and many libraries and homes, need. Here are 3 things I loved:
1-Finding yourself
2-Racially divided world
3-Short, but deep read

I hope you read and enjoy!
Profile Image for Maura.
631 reviews9 followers
August 8, 2020
One of the most powerful signs at a Black Lives Matter protest near me was held by a small Black boy and read, "When do I go from cute to dangerous?" I stopped in my tracks seeing it, immediately thinking of my 7 year old's best friend since babyhood...how many years left does he have of coos of "He's so adorable!" from white lady passersby, rather than them clutching their purses more tightly or crossing the street? How many more years does this kind, good boy get to play his violin, smile with abandon, and be at home in the world rather than be presumed a suspect just for existing?

Stephen, the biracial main character of WHAT LANE? has reached that limen, when the systeming racism around him suddenly begins to be personal racism directed AT him. Torrey Maldonado takes readers on Stephen's journey...straddling the threshold, examining it, and beginning to figure out what lanes he will choose on the other side of it. With pitch-perfect dialogue that only an author who spends hours a day with young adults can master, Maldonado allows readers to see through Stephen's bewildering, infuriating experiences with racism and with evolving relationships with friends who see it and friends who don't.

This is a brilliant, accessible, funny, relatable, heartbreaking, infuriating, beautiful book that depicts universal growing up experiences like confronting peer pressure and bullies, as well as experiences unique to Black kids in America. Maldonado gives a sensitive look at Stephen's biracial identity formation and the differing perspectives of his parents when it comes to preparing him for the dangers in our world versus protecting him from knowledge of them.

The only stretch of credulity Maldonado requires was to depict Stephen as largely unaware of the Black Lives Matter movement and specific victims of police violence such as Tamir Rice, but the context of Stephen's white mother's attempts to shield him from deeper knowledge of racist violence in America explains his unawareness somewhat. Many elementary readers of WHAT LANE? (particularly white readers) will begin the book similarly unaware, and Maldonado introduces the topic in a way that is both accessible and emotionally impactful to younger readers.

Highly recommended for elementary and middle school libraries. Also, a great multigenerational family read to spark needed discussions among families of all races in America.
Profile Image for Deborah Zeman.
706 reviews10 followers
March 25, 2023
This is a book every kid, no matter what race, color or creed, should read. Torrey nailed it on the head; middle schoolers are a lot more aware than adults think they are. That they can handle more serious issues than believed. Racism is not hidden. It’s right there, in plain sight. I really appreciated the way Torrey writes that it’s ok to ride in a lot of different lanes, but find your OWN lane; be true to yourself.
Profile Image for Laurie.
Author 7 books92 followers
July 2, 2020
A powerful, engaging story about the everyday racism Black kids experience, what it means to be an ally, and what it means to be anti-racist. Torrey Maldonado writes accessible and engaging books that make kids think and feel deeply, and this is a perfect middle grade novel for this moment. It packs a punch in only 126 pages, which makes it a great pick for read-alouds, book groups, and kids who are turned off by longer books.
Profile Image for Amanda Rawson Hill.
Author 6 books64 followers
October 23, 2020
Excellent discussion starter and also nice and short. Really perfect for middle schoolers.
Profile Image for Lori Emilson.
458 reviews
January 16, 2022
This is a great little book for middle years kids. I love that it’s short - opens the doors for many kids who shy away from longer texts. The story is a good opportunity to discuss racism, BLM and white allyship. Great book club choice!
Profile Image for Ro Menendez.
564 reviews20 followers
March 9, 2020
Being a librarian gifts me the ability to build relationships with my elementary readers that span multiple years. I have come to expect with trepidation the abrupt transformation many 4th graders go through over the summer. They come back to school as 5th graders, with a new outlook on decision making, one that I cannot comprehend. I’ve tried talking, walking them through their previous choices for as long as we’ve known each other, but it has been difficult for them to put into words what exactly is behind the choices they are currently making, leaving me without ideas on how to best stand by them.

Looking for answers, for understanding, I turn to books, I read stories about kids their age, I read diversely and widely and yet, had not gained much insight until I fell into Torrey Maldonado’s stories. Maldonado’s latest book What Lane? has taken me the closest I have ever been to understanding my kids. It’s hard to explain exactly what I glean, maybe I’m not meant to understand completely, maybe I’m not capable, but I feel a fleeting tickle in my brain, like I’m getting it, I’m understanding my boys and girls. Maybe, what Maldonado offers adult readers, who are invested in supporting their students through the middle grade age, is empathy, hope, a flutter of wings in our hearts that the kids we’ve known for so long, that we look at now and wonder where exactly the kid we knew has gone to, is that they are still there, figuring themselves out and needing us to believe that they will figure out what they need to keep of who they are, what they need to change and grow into, to make their lives as amazing as can be.

What Lane? introduces to readers’ lives, Stephen, an 11- year-old biracial boy, his mom is white and his dad is African American. Stephen has bought into the philosophy of Marshall Carter, his favorite basketball player, that believes that the world is his lane, there is no lane he cannot ride. Stephen believes this about himself, there are no lane limitations for him, he can ride in any and all lanes. Middle grade readers will absolutely eat this up, after all they have adults in their lives that tell them things like “You can do whatever you put your mind to!”, “The sky is the limit!” “You can do anything! You can be anything!” but through Stephen’s journey they’ll explore how this is not life’s reality, especially if you are a black or brown child, a trans child, a differently abled child.

Maldonado uses pop culture references (for example: Miles Morales Into the Spiderverse, Stranger Things, Harry Potter ) and preteen and neighborhood slang, to draw middle grade readers into Stephen’s world. It’s one parallel to their own which sets up readers to see themselves in the situations Stephen and his friends and classmates are experiencing. Stephen’s best friend, Dan, is white. They have a strong bond and an honest friendship, they care for each other, keep each other in check, and have a wider, diverse group of friends they interact with. Stephen is at an age where he no longer looks like a little boy, and with this change, comes the realization that adults in his community no longer see him as the kid they’ve always known. Through different incidents, and the forced presence of Dan’s cousin, Chad, who has recently moved to their neighborhood and is determined to drive a wedge between Stephen and Dan, Stephen begins to realize that the world is not his lane, the world does not allow a black, brown, or biracial boy to ride every available lane.

What Stephen invites readers to explore is the possibility of not bottling up the visceral feelings he is experiencing as he notices that the world around him has decided he is a threat, he is up to no good, he is a troublemaker; as he feels the sting and fear prejudice and racial profiling is causing. Stephen puts into words all that he is feeling and thinking as best he can, in conversations with his dad. His father offers clarity and also the harsh truth that people are now viewing him differently, not because he has changed, but because he looks more like a young man and less like a child. Being brave in sharing what is happening is a path that helps Stephen deal with all of these feelings, find answers and also advise on how to cope with this new reality.

Stephen’s absolute trust in his friend Dan leads him to point out how they are treated differently. At first Dan doesn’t want to accept that because he is white his actions are always viewed as innocent, whereas Stephen’s exact actions are viewed as transgressions. Maldonado offers middle grade readers a model of what a healthy friendship should feel like. Stephen and Dan are honest with each other, listen to each other, and because of this Dan finally admits that maybe he should notice things more. Future incidents are met with Dan acting as an ally to Stephen and pointing out the injustice that adults are committing. This is a powerful model!

As the story progresses, Stephen encounters more racial profiling, peer pressure from Chad, and the realization that his motto “What Lane?” might not be one he can live by because of the color of his skin and the world we live in. This is a painful realization but with it also comes the clarity, that there are lanes Stephen doesn’t ever want to ride, and trying to ride them only brings regret, such as trying to meet every dare Chad throws his way. Maldonado doesn’t tie this realization up with a pretty bow, and frankly he might just undo some of the damage us well-meaning adults, have done by parroting ideas that equate to the What Lane? philosophy to our children, because it’s just not possible for anyone, even more so for children of color and marginalized communities.

One lane Stephen questions is if as a brown boy he should be so tight with a white boy. This made my reader, educator, and mom heart worry, I’ve seen this issue come up in real life; if you’re Latinx, you should surround yourself with Latinx friends, if you are African American you should hang out with African American friends. Painting our world with just one color is a dangerous proposition for any group, and Stephen faces this when Wes, a classmate who is also his friend and African American, points out they don’t spend much time together anymore and resents it. Wes wakes up Stephen to the Black Lives Matter movement, makes Stephen aware of lives lost to police brutality, such as young Trayvon Martin and others, and questions whether he should be spending so much time with Dan. Stephen toys with choosing, should he choose to spend his time with Wes, who understands the prejudice and fears he is experiencing, or should he continue spending his time with Dan, who cannot completely empathize with him because he doesn’t suffer the racism Stephen is subjected to constantly. I won’t share how this evolves, but I will say, knowing Maldonado’s writing, my heart had nothing to worry about in the first place.

What Lane? is a story that all middle grade readers should have access to. As with all books that explore the social justice issues & inequality that our children face today, adults should provide scaffolding support and an open invitation to conversation without judgement about what readers need more information on.

Torrey Maldonado’s What Lane? is a necessary story for everyone, not for certain “insert label here” readers. Living through Stephen and Dan’s relationship, what true friendship looks and acts like, is necessary. Understanding the prejudice and profiling a child of color is subjected to and how reaching out to caring adults is an avenue worth exploring, is necessary. Understanding white privilege and what being an ally looks like, is necessary. Understanding that the claim that you are “color blind” is an excuse to not take action against racism, is necessary. Understanding our world’s social justice issues, the Black Lives Matter Movement and the events that led to its need, is the first step to recognizing the injustice we are living in and how it is everyone’s responsibility to change, is necessary. What Lane? is definitely a lane all our children should ride if we want them to grow up to be changemakers and socially responsible humans, and who doesn’t want that for their children and students?
Profile Image for Niki.
1,104 reviews9 followers
February 27, 2020
NOTE: I received an ARC at the OLA Superconference. What Lane? is due out in May.

Stephen want to belong in every "lane", or behaviour norms, but he is realizing that being black, the racism around him does influence his behaviour. He finds himself on a journey to understand his own lane, as well as to educate his friends about their lanes and their influences.

The writing style of What Lane? makes for a very quick middle grade read. There isn't anything inappropriate for younger audiences, but I feel What Lane? is best suited for grades 5-6 so the reader will get the most out of Torrey Maldonado's message.

The other reviews on GoodReads are extremely positive, and while I liked What Lane?, I have a few small reservations. Maldonado uses a lot of slang to tell the story. I'm not confident that it will be as impactful for readers less familiar with the terms. I found the story a bit simple, as well. While What Lane? will have appeal because it is short and therefore accessible to many readers, I feel it lacks depth to make me fall in love with it.

3.5/5 stars
Profile Image for Kathie.
Author 2 books66 followers
January 23, 2020
Thank you to Nancy Paulsen for an ARC of this book for #bookportage. I really wanted to read this story after loving the author's previous book, TIGHT, and once again he has amazes me with how much he can say in such a short amount of space.

This is an important story for its focus on racial injustice, and how Stephan sees he can't do the same things that his friends do without fear of repercussions they'll never understand. It's an eye-opening story for many readers who are oblivious to the racism that occurs around them on a daily basis, and takes the time to point it out and make it impossible to ignore. The author does an excellent job of writing a thought-provoking story, while using language that appeals directly to the middle grade crowd. The length of this story makes it hugely appealing for library collections where readers are finding an overabundance of titles that are long and daunting.

WHAT LANE is set for release on April 14th, and I highly recommend you add it to your classrooms and library collections.
May 23, 2020
Thank you @torreymaldonado & @penguinkids for sharing #WhatLane with #bookexcursion This book needs to be in every middle grade library and tackles racism in a way that readers will feel the discomfort of what Stephen goes through or see themselves in him.

Stephen, 12, is half black, half white and is starting to see the prejudice and racism directed towards him that his white friendships don’t face. His black father lovingly prepares him with advice like “think twice before you act once” and “fires don’t put out fires, be chill to cool things off” so Stephen can face the truth about how others can perceive him as a growing black boy. Powerful read with real events that prove injustices exist, tackled in such a way that #middlegradereaders will build empathy. I cannot wait for 5/2020 to add this to my library for #socialjustice and #socialcomprehension work.

#readinginthemiddlegrades #whatlane #mglit #middlegradebooks #arc #mustreadfor2020
Profile Image for Melissa.
105 reviews18 followers
May 24, 2020
This story is an important one that needs to be told and read by both children and adults! Another great title to add to middle grade book lists and a possible project lit title!?! Thank you Torrey for sharing your talents with the world and adding perspective to what it is like growing up between multiple (and unequal) worlds.
Profile Image for Cassie Thomas.
454 reviews16 followers
October 14, 2020
I love how Torrey writes for kids right now. This book will be so loved and well read.
Profile Image for Gailanne Smith.
98 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2020
More and more young people are becoming aware of the ugly prejudices around them, but even so, many don't see the microaggressions that are prevalent in our society, nor the internal racism that many people act upon when they see someone of color. Often they may not even realize they are having these thoughts or feelings. What Lane? focuses on a young man with an African-American dad and white mom,  who is becoming more and more aware of the big and small differences in his treatment by others because of the color of his skin. While there is a range of prejudice in here (varying from a classmate who is blatant about his racism, to caring friends who need racist words and actions pointed out to see them for what they are), Maldonado handles the subject in such a way that middle grade students can become aware of the issues presented here without the mature content and language that some young adult books about the Black Lives Matter movement contain. Using What Lane? as a classroom read aloud or book study could prompt enlightening discussions about racism and open students' eyes to subtle and not-so-subtle examples of it in our everyday lives, though anyone reading it independently or with their family will gain insight from its story.
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews81 followers
April 30, 2020
As a biracial kid, Stephen is confronted with the fact that he’s living in two worlds. However, he doesn’t fully fit into either one the way he wants to. While his friends are sometimes blind to the realities, he’s hit, head on, by social injustices and the very real understanding of white privilege. And he tried, many times, to figure out which “lane” he belongs in. The best summary of this book can be found in this quote:

“I need to wake up more of my white friends so they see prejudice is real. They can fix that in their lane.”

It’s wonderfully executed in less than 150 pages — I hope this one makes its way into may school and public libraries this year!

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!
234 reviews12 followers
August 4, 2020
As other reviewers have mentioned, the length and writing style make this a very accessible book for middle grade readers. It is a great introduction to the idea that your skin color affects how you are treated in the world, and what it means to truly be an ally. As Stephen grappled with growing up and having the world look at him as a Black man and not a boy, his eyes are opened to the microaggressions directed toward him, police brutality against people his age or barely older, and the Black Lives Matter movement. A character driven story, this serves as both a mirror for students grappling with the same realities, a window for students wondering why the Black Lives Matter movement exists, and a sliding glass door for those ready to practice allyship. #LitReviewCrew
Profile Image for Joy Kirr.
1,022 reviews129 followers
April 1, 2021
I didn’t care for the ending, yet I do understand why he left it that way - most often, we don’t know where people will go from there. We can’t know. I loved the way the author talked about “Black Lives Matter” without ALWAYS using those words. He SHOWED the reader, through various ways. I liked his other novel for middle schoolers - TIGHT - and this one has that same feel of REALness. The main character is mixed, and he’s treated as if he’s Black. I can’t stand Chad (the antagonist), because I’ve known (and know??) people that have grown up and are still like him. Great characters. Great simple plot and REAL stories. Totally buying this one for the classroom.
Profile Image for meg .
95 reviews7 followers
October 14, 2021
Quick read about a boy, Stephen, who is just starting to realize the effects that race has on his life and those of his friends and family. Stephen's mom is white, dad is black, and best friend, Dan, is white. He's never had to consider his race before until Dan's cousin starts hanging out with their friend group and starts treating Stephen differently than his white friends. Stephen then begins noticing how other kids and adults treat him differently and learns about the Black Lives Matter movement and greater injustices that exist. This book is a great jumping off point for classroom discussions.
Profile Image for Samantha Neeb.
11 reviews2 followers
May 27, 2020
I loved this book right from the beginning! Thanks #NetGalley and Nancy Paulsen Books (Penguin) for the ARC, even though I read it after it was published, oops! I will definitely be recommending this book for purchase at the library!

What lane? Who's lane do you want to be in or not be in?
It book makes such a good example of showing the importance of friends and choices at such a pivotal time in life.

Profile Image for TheNextGenLibrarian.
1,728 reviews
April 25, 2020
Racism isn’t quiet. It isn’t pretty or hidden. It’s right in front of us, more for some than others. This book brings light to a serious issue that plagues our society to this day. Thank you Torrey for writing about it—giving it a face for our students to see. They are the future that can help change our world. #weneeddiversebooks
Profile Image for Mary Lee.
2,957 reviews55 followers
June 1, 2020
Must read.

This comes as close to "The Talk" for White kids about white privilege, about what the Black experience is, and how Whites can be aware of the Black Experience and be allies. All inside a good story.

Must read.

(Also, Torrey Maldonado does the audio. I haven't listened, but probably a must listen.)
Profile Image for Eden Bryann.
11 reviews
June 12, 2020
It was a fast paced read. It dives into white privilege and BLM. It think it’s a great book for middle grades. It will definitely get some conversations going. The characters are relatable. I just wish it was longer! It hooked me in and then left me hanging at the end.
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