The Way the Light Bends

400p. Philomel. Mar. 2018. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780399547447.
Gr 7 Up—What happens when you have to choose between being yourself and pleasing others? This is a central question in this intricately woven novel in verse. Holly and Linc share an intense bond as sisters, but lately Holly is an academic superstar, while Linc's inability to succeed in school is a constant disappointment to their exacting mother. A blossoming photographer, Linc strives to make her parents and teachers register the value in her artistic vision; but she has a pervasive feeling that she does not belong at her competitive New York City school or within her own family. If only she could get into the Innovative Arts Academy, maybe everyone would understand her own vision for her life. A well-executed subplot sees Linc using her art to make the invisible history of Seneca Village, with its African American community and its Irish and German immigrants, visible. The author deftly avoids negative stereotyping in developing the diverse cast. Linc's best friend is gay. Holly was adopted from Ghana, while Linc is her parents' biological, though unplanned, daughter. The idea that "humans are their choices" is a pervasive and worthy message throughout the novel, and Linc learns to make wise and authentic choices. Her boyfriend turns out to deeply disappoint, and Linc closes off the relationship with a healthy finality.
VERDICT Begging to be paired with Marilyn Nelson's My Seneca Village, give this book to any students who have ever felt invisible or who have ever struggled to feel at home in a traditional academic setting.

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