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Sunday, July 12, 2009

After Tupac and D Foster - Jacqueline Woodson

Jacqueline Woodson is an amazing author who's incredibly gifted at creating characters who seem incredibly real. Probably why she's won the Margaret Edwards award for lifetime achievement in writing for young adults.

This novel centers on three young African American girls, Neeka, D, and the narrator, whose name is never told. Neeka and the narrator have grown up across the street from one another and been friends forever. D appears from nowhere one day, and she melts into the pair almost effortlessly, creating a threesome that, in their minds at least, is forever. Yet, the first line of the novel, “The summer before D Foster’s real mama came and took her away, Tupac wasn’t dead yet,” tells readers that this will not be the case.

Interestingly, as close as the three are, Neeka and the narrator know almost nothing about D, a foster child who does not live in their neighborhood and who earns their envy with her ability to travel around town anywhere she likes. All three of the girls long for something more and envision a future that is different from their present. They are searching for their Big Purpose, as adolescents do, and wondering what it is and how they'll get there.

The main characters are huge fans of Tupac, and although I am not a fan of his music, I can understand identifying with music and how it can seem like a musician is speaking directly to you, particularly as an adolescent. It seems that most people have a soundtrack from when they were young. For these teens, Tupac clearly would be part of that list.

The novel is filled with dialect and may be a bit challenging for some readers because of this, yet without it the story's authenticity would surely be lost.

As I write this entry, I find myself wondering what will happen to these three girls. Wondering and worrying. Remember what I said at the beginning about Jacquline Woodson being a genius at character development? That's how you know. You wonder and you worry.

Available at the WOMS library.

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