cover image BORN IN SIN


Evelyn Coleman, BORN IN SINEvelyn Coleman

Keisha, a 14-year-old growing up in Georgia, narrates the events of a pivotal summer in Coleman's (White Socks Only) inspiring novel. When her high school guidance counselor thwarts her efforts to get into Avery's fast-track pre-med program and instead places Keisha in a summer program for at-risk kids, Keisha erupts in a rage (" 'You know what, Ms. Hill. Ain't the hospital just a few blocks away?… I ain't the one at risk. You are.' And I leaped over the desk to get to her"). The author carefully finesses Keisha's complex emotions as she attempts to be true to herself and to navigate the obstructions in her path. It is Keisha's strong narrative voice, combined with some striking characters and relationships, that keeps her story afloat, despite some far-fetched and serpentine plot developments. Through this summer at-risk program, Keisha learns to deal with her own racial prejudice, makes her first real friends and discovers that she has a natural talent for swimming. Readers may find that Keisha's acceleration from non-swimmer to Olympic hopeful stretches credibility. And the two-dimensional portrayal of the white leaders of the at-risk program (they speak in sports metaphors, for instance) detracts from the more penetrating, insidious examples of racism (such as the conversation between Miss Troutman, the head of the program, and Keisha's mother) elsewhere in the novel. But the authentic interactions here far outweigh the missteps. The relationships among the women form the core of the novel: tender bedtime conversations between Keisha and her older sister, many touching scenes between Keisha and her mother, and the heroine's recollections of her grandmother ("As long as there's stars in the sky we gonna be all right. My grandma taught me that before she died—and I believe her"). Keisha's rise to the top will keep readers enthralled. Ages 14-up. (Mar.)