Publishers Weekly Review
From the chief blogger of Barack Obama's first presidential campaign comes a provocative debut that wrestles with matters of race, white privilege, and institutional prejudice head-on. The subtly humorous, surprisingly touching coming-of-age narrative is told from the perspective of Dave, one of the only white students at King, a predominantly black and Latino public middle school in Boston. At the start of sixth grade in 1992, he befriends Marlon, a smart black student from the nearby housing projects with a passion for the Celtics and a gorgeous singing voice. The pals wade through typical middle school drama together-flirting with "shorties," getting bullied by tougher classmates, handling academic stress. Their friendship survives most of the upheaval, until competition over a girl and Dave's ease at getting ahead get in the way. The significance of the boys' backgrounds is obvious-Dave might be an outlier at school, but he and his Harvard-educated hippie parents are more set up in life than most in his gentrifying neighborhood. Where Graham-Felsen shines is in his depiction of the pressures put on Marlon to rise above his circumstances and to cope with his mother's mental illness. The novel is also a memorable and moving portrayal of a complicated but deep friendship that just might survive the weight placed on it. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.