Not Talking About You

Lorimer. Jan. 2023. 128p. Tr $27.99. ISBN 9781459417083; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781459417076.
Gr 6-8–Eighth grader Khalil is new in his suburban school, his family having recently moved from Toronto. He’s also one of the only kids of color in his community, his family having roots in St. Vincent. He’s an all-around athlete, but at first, he’s lost when new friend Cameron draws him into his circle of basketball-obsessed boys. Khalil proves a quick study, though, and lands a spot as a starter on the school’s team. Spending more time with Cameron’s crew, he begins to experience coded and explicit racial prejudice from his white teammates, against Navdeep, who is South Asian, and Arnold Chen, who is Chinese. Khalil struggles to think the best of Cameron, but when he catches him using an extremely offensive epithet in an IM session on a school computer, he’s forced into crisis. Some passages are dense with basketball descriptions, making the book more suitable for fans of the game. Several scenes portray racist language, which could upset some readers, but it’s presented in the context of illustrating casual discrimination and veiled hostility. The book is written at a third grade reading level.
VERDICT A compelling read for basketball fans with a powerful message about the persistence of racial bigotry. Recommended for libraries serving middle schoolers.

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