Content Warnings: bullying, violence
In 1992, Dave Greenfield is one of the only white students at Boston’s Martin Luther King Middle School. He thinks he’s been given the worst hand in life possible- girls ignore him, guys pick on him, and his parents won’t let him transfer to a private school. His only option is to test into the best public school in the city, but that’s unlikely given his lack of interest in academics.
Dave finds an unexpected friend in Mar Wellings when he shocks everyone and stands up for him in the cafeteria. Mar is a loner from the public housing project in Dave’s gentrifying neighborhood. He’s awkward, gawky, and nerdy- all characteristics that challenge Dave’s stereotypical views about black culture. Before they know it, they’ve formed a strong bond and are letting each other into their private lives that they keep shielded from everyone else at school. As Dave gets closer to Mar, he realizes just how many breaks he’s gotten in life that Mar hasn’t because of the colors of their skin.
I was a bit hesitant going into this book. While the premise really grabbed me, I was nervous about it being a stereotypical book where no actual realizations were made about white privilege. I was pleasantly surprised when Green proved me wrong and wound up being a fresh take on the typical coming-of-age novel, packing a punch with humor, charm, and powerful revelations about race in America.
Graham-Felsen created a lovable, complex narrator in Dave as he stumbles through the confusion and uncertainty of adolescence. We watch him stumble between his world at home with his “hippie,” academic parents and his self-proclaimed “ghetto” school. His friendship with Mar is truly powerful and unique, and added a lot to the novel.
Green is a solid debut that tackles racism and adolescence in a charming way.
Note: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my onw.