Keeping It Real

Greenwillow. Oct. 2021. 368p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780062965691.
Gr 5 Up–Fourteen-year-old Marigold is the heiress apparent to a thriving hip-hop and clothing empire, Flexx Unlimited, owned by her adoring parents. She and her best friend (and secret crush) Justice are two of the only Black students at an elite private school in DC; Marigold attends because her parents are wealthy, and Justice because he has an athletic scholarship. When Justice announces that he is planning on pursuing a summer internship with her parents’ company through a special fashion program designed to help young people from some of DC’s poorest backgrounds, Mari decides to join the program as well. Because she is the bosses’ daughter and comes from privilege, she feels excluded from the other interns, including Justice. One of the interns in particular seems to have a mysterious grudge against her, the origin of which is revealed in the 12th hour of the novel. The book reads a bit like an after-school special. Mari’s relationship with her parents seems a little too easy, even when she discovers they’ve lied to her, and the resolution of the story arrives abruptly and is slightly on the saccharine side. Nevertheless, the book does a refreshing job exploring friendship, socioeconomic classes, and race without being too didactic or heavy.
VERDICT Although an unrealistic resolution and speedy ending hamper the novel, middle grade readers who enjoy stories about fashion and friendship, rooted in real-world issues, will enjoy.

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