Paula Chase, the acclaimed author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness—and what it means to be family—in this timely and memorable stand-alone novel. Marigold was the only black kid at her fancy private school until scholarship kid Justice matriculates and they become fast friends. Mari’s parents run the top hip-hop media company Flexx Unlimited, which is set to host the inaugural summer program Style High, which aims to help boost 4 Black students interested in the fashion industry. When they both get in, Mari is set for a rude awakening as she discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.

Teen drama and plenty of it will appeal to the upper middle grade audience (Grades 6 and up). Although the characters are in the summer between middle school and high school, their ages are the only indicator that it could be a YA title. I’m calling it a bridge book to YA.

The story is unique, as are the characters. Mari narrates. She lives at home with her well-off parents. The only other major male character is Justice. He’s an athlete but also loves clothes. There is a lot of slang and you’ll learn a few new words. Text messages are scattered throughout and capture the world teens live in. Black identity is brought front and center and will have readers of other colors learning some realities.

Three themes make this a story teens will love. Up first is Fashion. Maybe not a real theme but the process of creating a look for someone based on their personality is fascinating. Next is Friendship and how teens can sometimes act before they think. They fill their life with assumptions about others. Finally there’s Family and how you see your family can often change as a teen learns more about their parent’s earlier life. All themes are handled well making it a compelling and eye opening read. The story also has one of those “I didn’t see that one coming” twists and pushes readers toward a pleasing epilogue. It also begs to have a sequel.

Paula Chase is the expert on teen culture and you’d almost expect her to still be a teen. Check out her other 8 titles featuring more colorful covers and story lines.

I received a copy of the book for my honest review.


Blogging about middle grade books or authors next week? Join the celebration.

All you have to do is blog about a middle grade book on a Monday (contests, author interviews, or anything middle grade related also count). Email me the title of the book or feature and a link to your blog at gpcolo[at]gmail[dot]com
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About Greg Pattridge

Climbing another mountain...always striving to reach the next peak in my life and career.
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3 Responses to KEEPING IT REAL

  1. Yes, it does sound like a nice bridge book between MG and YA readers. Great cast of characters and an interesting plot. Think this one will win over readers! Thanks for sharing today!

  2. My first manuscript (which I still believe in) has kids transitioning from middle to high school. I have always used the term Tween to describe it, but that is not a widely accepted term. This sounds like an interesting book. The drama seems to grow exponentially when kids move from middle to high school. Thanks for telling me about this.

  3. I’d love to see more “Upper MG”; it’s just basically what Young Adult books were 20 years ago– high school issues but without sex, drugs, alchohol or swearing!

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