Black Boy, White School

Brian F Walker, Author
Brian F. Walker. HarperTeen, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-191483-6
Library Binding - 246 pages - 978-0-06-191484-3
Ebook - 256 pages - 978-0-06-209917-4
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Walker’s powerful debut never shies from violence (often stark), as it follows 14-year-old Anthony, aka “Ant,” from his poor East Cleveland neighborhood to preppy Belton Academy in Maine, exploring issues of racial identity and class. Although the standard “overcoming adversity” tropes appear, they pale compared to Walker’s forceful narrative voice and fast-paced storytelling. After his friend Mookie is killed, Ant resolves to take advantage of the scholarship offer he’s received and go to Belton. Ant soon discovers plenty of bigotry (including the occasional well-meaning assumption that he’ll be on the basketball team), but he also learns to balance his identity within the school with his roots in Cleveland. Had Walker left the novel there, it would still be a solid story, but his exploration of the effect of race and class on identity carries the story far. If there are a few moments of rote cliché (a teacher actually tells Ant, “You helped me grow up, too”), the writing and characters easily compensate for the occasional stumble. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jodie Rhodes Literary Agency. (Jan.)
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