cover image The People in the Park

The People in the Park

Margaree King Mitchell. Pelican Book Group/Watershed (STL, dist.), $11.99 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-61116-304-9

In her first novel for teens, Mitchell (Uncle Jed’s Barbershop) explores divisions of race and class through the eyes of a petulant African-American girl whose privileged life is upended. When Lauren’s father is accused of investment fraud, the scandal is splashed all over the news and gossiped about in the hallways of her prestigious, mostly-white high school. Lauren maintains a steely resolve when her mother becomes reclusive, her boyfriend dumps her, and she must relinquish her car and carefree spending habits. Thankfully, a handful of BFFs have her back, and an aunt and cousin help her cope and reacquaint her with church. Lauren soon discovers she also has the support of unexpected new friends, too. Though Mitchell introduces relevant themes, the story’s pace is choppy, and numerous descriptions and dialogue exchanges feel forced. Lauren’s edge is softened by her experiences, but the characters around her are stock players. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)■