Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 4
Genre: Magical Realism
What did you like about the book? This story focuses on American-born but Haitian-raised teenager Fabiola Toussaint and opens with her trying to enter the US with her mother. Her mother gets detained at the airport by immigration though and Fabiola ends up trying to navigate a new life in Detroit with her American aunt and 3 cousins all while trying to find a way to get her mother out of an immigration detention camp in New Jersey. There’s a really great blending of Haitian Vodou religious aspects with Fabiola’s faith and gritty real-life harshness of living in a rough tangle of experiences in the city. There’s high school drama, drugs drama, romance, friendship, loyalty to family and all the questions of life that any teen struggles to answer, all written in a prose that is at times gorgeous and at times perfectly blunt. It works well: the narrator is incredibly sympathetic even as she is drawn into a dark underworld of Detroit and the cast of characters is diverse in a way that is natural and not forced or the focus of the story. There are challenges to slut-shaming, a Muslim romance, and a lesbian romance which all help make what could have been just a dark tale more about its hopeful heart.
Anything you didn’t like about it? Nothing to dislike but a word of caution that there is a LOT of harsh swearing (the f-bomb is very frequent) and violent or drug/gang related scenes are NOT sugar-coated so it feels real but that can be good or bad depending on the read you’re looking for. This isn’t a light and fluffy tale on immigration or YA romance.
To whom would you recommend this book? Readers who love a bit of magic in their YA dark dramas or book groups looking for a solid read that challenges them to think about what happens next. Bit more YA drama in it but could be good for Urban fiction readers as well since it does not shy away from darker topics.
Who should buy this book? High schools, Public Libraries
Where would you shelve it? YA Fiction
Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Yes
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: April Duclos, Hudson Public Library, Hudson MA
Date of review: 4/1/17