Sunday, March 13, 2016
Sierra Santiago wants to spend the summer painting, working on her murals, but something strange happens. A creepy man crashes a party she’s attending and chases her away from the boy she’s just met. And she notices that the other murals in the area where she is working are changing in strange ways–they are fading faster than they should, at it looks like one of the murals is crying.
On top of that, her grandfather, who has been bedridden and not made any sense since his stroke, keeps apologizing to her, over and over.
There is so very much to love about this book. For starters, Sierra goes to Octavia Butler High.
Second, although not a woman, Daniel Older shows quite clearly what it’s like to be female.
Further down Gates Ave, a couple of guys were throwing dice in front of the Coltrane Projects. “Why you frownin’, girl?” one of them called out as Sierra walked past. “Smile for us!”
Sierra knew the guy. It was Little Ricky; they’d played together when they were small. He’d been one of those boys that all the girls were crazy about, with big dreamy eyes and a gentle way about him. A few years ago, Sierra would have been giddy with excitement to have his attention. Now he was just another stoopgoon harassing every passing skirt.
“I ain’t in the mood, jackass,” Sierra muttered, hugging herself. She was still shaky from the horrible night and she knew any sign of weakness would encourage them.
The guys let out a chorus of ohs and pounded one another. “I’m just saying, Sarcastula,” Ricky called after her. “C’mon back when you in the mood …”
And a minority female at that.
(T)he words crept in, made a home in Sierra’s mind no matter how much she fought them off. Her wild, nappy hair. She ran her hands through her fro. She loved it the way it was, free and undaunted. She imagined it as a force field, deflecting all Rosa’s stupid comments.
But Sierra isn’t a victim to it.
No matter what she did, that little voice came creeping back, persistent and unsatisfied.
Today she looked menacingly into the mirror and said: “I’m Sierra María Santiago. I am what I am. Enough.”
Let me be clear, this isn’t sermonizing, it’s just part of the life of the characters. These bits are simply the background to events, the day-to-day stuff that teens think about, and minority teens have to live with.
What I love best is the dialog, reading the back and forth between the teens.
“What about him, B?”
“He’s a Columbia professor. Or was.”
“How’d you find out?”
“This amazing thing they have now. It’s a web and it’s mad wide. Like, worldwide.”
“You gonna show yourself or just break my window?” she hissed into the darkness.
“It’s me!” someone whispered loudly from down below.
“You’re gonna haveta be more specific than that.”
“Imma write a book,” Tee announced. “It’s gonna be about white people.”
Izzy scowled. “Seriously, Tee: Shut up. Everyone can hear you.”
“I’m being serious,” Tee said. “If this Wick cat do all this research about Sierra’s grandpa and all his Puerto Rican spirits, I don’t see why I can’t write a book about his people. Imma call it Hipster vs. Yuppie: A Culturalpological Study.”
These are definitely teens, being teens. But they’re not stupid, and there isn’t really much angst. Yes, Sierra has issues with her family, but they’re typical teenage girl issues.
And here’s one of my favorite bits. Bennie and Sierra talk about what’s been happening while Bennie braids her hair.
They sat in silence for a while, Bennie twisting and pulling away as Sierra tumbled the past two days around and around in her head like a load of laundry. “Ow!”
“Relax, I’m done. How you feel?”
“Like my face is being slowly yanked around to the back of my head.”
Oh yes, I know that feeling.
This is an utterly marvelous book, and I highly recommend it.
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books