What Lane?

Penguin/Nancy Paulsen Bks. Apr. 2020. 144p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780525518433.
Gr 5-8–Taking his title from a fictional baller’s mantra, Maldonado depicts his young hero’s awakening to the ugly realities of contemporary American racism. Caught between his best friend Dan, and Dan’s racist cousin Chad; straddling the line between his overprotective, naive white mother and his realist, all-too-aware Black father; and doing his best to integrate his middle school friend group, biracial Stephen is finding it tricky to “stay wide in all lanes.” With his mother unwilling to admit the real perils her Black son faces outside their home, Stephen nonetheless discovers the Black Lives Matter movement at his school, and begins processing the insidious racism that he faces daily. Whether he’s handling daily interactions with local shopkeepers, or with the passersby on the street when he is fake fighting his white best friend, or dealing with the escalating aggression of Chad’s racist behavior, Stephen manages to avoid being pushed into one narrow, race-defined path. Popular with kids of all backgrounds, Stephen works to make his friends more accepting of each other, while making himself less susceptible to the sometimes irresponsible whims of his classmates.
VERDICT Maldonado uses a biracial adolescent boy’s perspective to draw his readers into an engaging story of identity and tough choices that will appeal to middle schoolers everywhere. An ideal choice for school book clubs and advisory.

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