cover image Charisma’s Turn

Charisma’s Turn

Monique Couvson, illus. by Amanda Jones. New Press, $19.99 (128p) ISBN 978-1-62097-401-8

Because of her responsibilities helping her single mother take care of her asthmatic younger brother Khalil, 16-year-old Charisma, who is portrayed with dark brown skin, often loses sleep and misses out on social gatherings. Her increased stress results in emotional outbursts as well as verbal and physical altercations at school. Following her most recent suspension, Ms. Anderson, the school guidance counselor, offers Charisma more positive, transformative ways to help manage her tumultuous feelings. Ms. Anderson believes that Charisma’s behavior is “leadership that’s being misdirected,” and encourages her to discover her passions by introducing Charisma to works by Annie Allen, Toni Morrison, and Alice Walker. After dreaming that she receives impactful advice from Morrison about how to better communicate her feelings with her loved ones, Charisma applies this instruction to her everyday life, an undertaking that grants her the confidence to pursue environmental racism advocacy, in part inspired by Khalil. Jones’s vividly saturated art recalls Annie Lee’s Black Americana style, smartly complementing the subject matter and addressed literary references. Via a sympathetic protagonist who often feels overlooked, Couvson (Sing a Rhythm, Dance a Blues) highlights mature ruminations on how best to support struggling teens. Ages 12–17. (May)