Two of my 5-star reviews this week ~ “American Street” by Ibi Zoboi and “Piecing Me Together” by Renee Watson – both are written for mature YA audiences. I loved these books so much that I actually did an Instagram giveaway for them! The reviews are also published on Goodreads, Instagram and Amazon as well as Net Galley and Edelweiss.
(both titles were digital advance review copies, all opinions are my own – no affiliate links)
“American Street” by Ibi Zoboi
Ibi Zoboi’s new novel, “American Street” is a gritty and haunting tale of a Haitian teenage immigrant, Fabiola Toussaint, who is separated from her mother when her mother is detained by immigration officials at the airport upon reaching America. Fabiola is then left alone to travel to meet her aunt and cousins in Detroit, where she is met with a harsh and unexpected view of the Unites States on the corner of American Street and Joy Road. In the family’s house on Detroit’s west side, Fabiola struggles to maintain her connection to the Haitian vodou of her heritage while striving to fit in and make a life of her own. Fabiola’s relationships with her cousins, new friends and love interest are strikingly poignant and raw, leaving her vulnerable to heartbreak and pain while she attempts to reunite with her mother.
I read this book at full speed, not wanting to miss a single word while simultaneously racing to discover the conclusion to the story. I highlighted about 50 different selections that I wanted to return to and ponder, and was struck at how timely this novel is at this time of political strife regarding immigration and racial tensions. Zoboi herself is a Haitian immigrant, although she came to America when she was four years old rather than a teen as Fabiola did. A wonderful author’s note in the book shares her motivation for writing this story and the connection with the shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012, along with a rich backstory on the cultural Haitian heritage woven throughout the book.
Verdict: a must-add for high school libraries and a heartbreaking account of immigration and the pursuit of the American dream from a rare cultural perspective. I will be shouting this book from the rooftops. Due to language and drug references, I concur with the grades 9-12 recommendation from Booklist and School Library Journal.
“Piecing Me Together” by Renee Watson
This timely young adult book hits the reader with brutal insights on race, class and wealth on a regular basis, all while telling the story of Jade, a black girl in Portland, Oregon trying to fit in and succeed in a biased world. The prose is fairly stark, while occasionally breaking into a more poetic style to draw attention to the emotion and message being conveyed. At some points it feels as if Jade’s story is a bit rushed and merely a backdrop for the necessary and welcome commentary on being black in America, but given how striking that commentary is, the story draws you back into caring deeply about the characters and their reflection of modern America. Jade’s art and her relationship with her mentor, Maxine, are focal points of the book and provide depth to the narrative. I read an ebook advance reader copy of this title, and look forward to having a final copy to re-read and mark all of the passages that struck me on topics of race, gender, police brutality, body image and class.
VERDICT: A must-purchase for middle and high school libraries and a book for all teens to read immediately. Adults will aso find the social commentary compelling.