Teenie’s best friend Cherise has always been a little wild. Now that she’s accepting money from a guy she met online (who goes by the totally non-sketchy name “Big Daddy”), though, Teenie is really worried. Teenie herself is much more straight-laced and studious, but when a few new clothes get her the attention of hot senior Greg, she is instantly head-over-heels and in over her head.
I just loved this. It felt like a 100% believable slice of urban teen life. The dialogue is perfect: I could hear the characters’ voices in my head, without crossing the line into overdone slang. The online chats even manage to be realistic without being annoying, which I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a book pull off. There’s a lot of, “he was chatting with me and then he said he was logging off but then I found out he just blocked me and stayed on to chat with you,” which is absolutely the modern teen version of Jane Austen social negotiations, and yet it’s so hard for adult authors to do without seeming contrived. My hat is off to you, Mr. Grant, sir!
The girls deal with some topical stuff, but it never ever feels like an Afterschool Special. In large part this is because every single supporting character is fully realized and engaging. Teenie’s parents are especially awesome. Her Barbadian dad, Beresford, is one of the funniest parental characters I’ve read in a long time:
My dad has these sayings — I call them Beresisms — and “teefin'” is one that he uses most frequently. Teefin’, or stealing, is done by a teef (thief) or, when my dad’s really angry, a teefah. It’s no wonder that growing up I thought Queen Latifah was a criminal mastermind. Lord, this man is strange.
Well-written, funny, believable realistic fiction about girls of color: boy howdy, do we need more like this. (Note: the main characters are 9th graders, and I’d say this is best for 7th-10th grade. There is one explicit, scary sexual situation, but it’s written from the perspective of a girl who’s too young to handle what she’s gotten herself into — and fortunately, she gets out again before anything too awful happens. Younger girls getting pressured (and worse) by older boys happens all the time, in cities and suburbs, so I do think this is appropriate for a lot of middle school readers.)