cover image Keeping It Real

Keeping It Real

Paula Chase. Greenwillow, $16.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-296569-1

Socioeconomically, fashion design–sketching Black teen Marigold Johnson is like most of the privileged white students who attend Flowered Arms Academy—that is, her parents are “ballers.” As the only Black girl in her grade, however, Mari has found solace for the past two years in her best friendship with Justice, a basketball scholarship student and one of two other Black students in their year. After Justice reveals that he got into a highly competitive summer fashion program for Black rising ninth graders “from some of DC’s poorest neighborhoods” at Flexx Unlimited—the “hip-hop lifestyle and media company” run by Mari’s parents—Mari decides to join. But when Mari meets the two other selected trainees, she steps into a space in which her background makes her “the same but different,” especially as one teen makes her dislike known and Justice seems to ignore Mari entirely. With interspersed text messages and an accessible voice, Chase (Turning Point) delivers a contemporary narrative on the complexities of race, class privilege, and interpersonal relationships, exploring being “Black enough” through a flawed but resonant cast navigating empathy, friendship, and family. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jennifer Carlson, Carlson Dunow & Lerner Literary. (Oct.)