FICTION

A Good Kind of Trouble

368p. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Mar. 2019. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062836687.
COPY ISBN
RedReviewStarGr 4–8—Twelve-year-old Shayla is just starting middle school. She and her friends, Isabella and Julia, aka "The United Nations" because of their diverse backgrounds, want to stick together just like they did in elementary school. They soon discover that middle school is different and conflicts with friends and crushes ensue. In the midst of the typical middle school angst, a not guilty verdict in a legal case concerning a police officer shooting an African American man is announced and Shayla begins to relate to the Black Lives Matter movement in a way she never has before. Shayla, always trouble-averse, ends up challenging her school's administration when black armbands are banned. She grows through the experience and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. The author does a beautiful job illustrating the pain a family goes through in the wake of such a ruling. Reminiscent in writing style to works by Lauren Myracle and Jason Reynolds, this novel starts by showing Shayla having typical middle school problems, then switches to the very specific problems she faces as a young black girl in America. There is also a powerful subplot concerning Shayla's changing perception of her lab partner, Bernard, an African American boy, who she sees as a bully at the beginning of the novel and slowly comes to see as having been boxed into that role by systemic bias.
VERDICT Give this to middle grade readers who aren't yet ready for Angie Thomas's The Hate U Give. Highly recommended.

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