American Street by Ibi Zoboi (2017), narrated by Robin Miles
I thought this was going to be a book about a new immigrant trying to fit in, but it's so much more. The fact that her cousins are wrapped up in the stuff they're wrapped up in makes it much more complicated. And her Aunt Jo is not in great health so she isn't as strong of a parent as she could otherwise be; she had really been counting on Fabiola's mother to be there. Plus Fabiola ends up with a romance with Kasim, who is a good friend of Dray's who Fabiola isn't crazy about being around. And there's a mysterious guy on their street who everyone calls Bad Leg but who Fabiola is convinced is Papa Legba, a voodoo spirit, and begins listening intently to his songs which she thinks may provide direction for her.
These kids may be streetwise, but they are still teenagers and I was very worried about them. Especially Fabiola, who was SO desperate to get her mother out of lockup that she would do anything to help her. I could totally see where she was coming from, but at certain points in the story I wanted to warn her against the things she was doing, or considering doing. Fabiola was loyal almost to a fault. There were times that I wanted her to slap Donna and insist she break off her abusive relationship, but instead, Fabiola would comfort and support her. Even though she was new in Detroit, she was confident enough to stand up for her family and new friends. For instance, Dray showed an interest in Fabiola's friend Imani and Donna was terrible to Imani but Fabiola defended Imani even though she was also loyal to her cousin because she knew Donna was in the wrong.
I was struck by the way these girls were so jealous and fought over men. Like, why not just insist the guys make a choice, or at least ask them which girl they were interested in? But I've never understood the way people will fight over a romantic partner as though they're an object without a will of their own. Is the assumption that the person likes both potential partners equally and they need to fight it out? It doesn't make sense to me. And it's not the other person's fault, it's the two-timing jerk's fault, so they're the one you should be fighting with. Anyway, I digress.
That was a criticism of human nature, not of the book. I honestly have no criticisms of this book. I listened to the audio version, which Robin Miles expertly narrated. Although her name sounded familiar to me I can't identify anything of hers I've listened to, but it does appear that she narrates some other pretty great books, notably the Broken Earth and Binti series. If you were considering listening to either of those, let that be your deciding factor.
American Street was a contender for our community read this year, and I can see why it was nominated. It's a different story than I've encountered in teen lit before and I thought it was great! Ibi Zoboi has also written a Pride and Prejudice retelling and I just checked to see if it was also narrated by Robin Miles, but to my surprise the narrator is none other than the author Elizabeth Acevedo. This is definitely going on my list of audiobooks to listen to sometime soon!
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