Review Detail

 
Kids Fiction
Overall rating 
 
4.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
4.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A

Urban Dance

Bean and Tai are neighbors in a low-income housing project and have been friends for a very long time, but recently things have been strained between them. Tai hopes that when Bean returns from spending the summer with her aunt and sister in the suburbs and the pair start their 8th grade year, that things will return to normal. When Bean decides that she would rather not be called by her nickname and prefers to be addressed as Mila (or Jamila) and still doesn't want to spend time at Tai's house, Tai is rather irritated. Mila is struggling as well. While her mother is not part of her life because of a drug addiction problem, her father is much stricter that Tai's grandmother, who still allows Tai's father to be at their house, even though he struggles with substance abuse as well. Tai is very interested in her new relationship with Rollie, and in investing herself in the neighborhood activities with her friends Mo and Sheeda. Mila is thinking about distancing herself, and is wondering if the suburbs are a better fit for her. When tryouts for a new Talented and Gifted school are announced, and two new students move into the area, the neighborhood is abuzz with who might make it into the different programs. The dancing program is extremely competitive, and Mila feels she can work hard enough to get into it, but Tai isn't as fond of ballet as she is of hip hop, and feels that the good ballet dancers get preferential treatment. Mila and Tai go back and forth in their relationship because of all of these factors, especially a critical incident involving Tai's father that is eventually addressed in an appropriate manner. Will the girls be able to embrace their similarities and remain friends, or will their differences wear down their relationship?

Good Points
This gave a nicely balanced description of the Cove neighborhood (which shows up in this author's earlier work, the Del Rio Bay Clique books), detailing the good parts as well as the problems. Friend relationships are SO important to middle grade readers, and the differences that Tai and Mila are experiencing are very true to life. The auditions for the TAG program are a facet of middle school life not often covered in literature, so the drama surrounding those was refreshing. The cover is fantastic and will sell itself. I'm very much looking forward to having this books available to recommend to my readers!

There is some slang in this, and I'm always conflicted about slang, since it sometimes dates a book very quickly and deep in my heart of hearts I want to keep all of the books I love in the library forever! Also, slang usage (even in the age of the internet) can be different in various locations. There were several times where I had to look up phrases in order to make sense of what was going on, although most words could be understood with contextual clues.

Definitely purchasing this for fans of the urban fiction of Renee Watson and Sharon Flake, and the dance books of Maddie Ziegler.
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