Review Detail

Kids Fiction 575
Timely Tween Novel
Overall rating 
 
5.0
Plot/Characters/Writing Style 
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable) 
 
N/A
Shayla is a good kid who doesn't like to be in trouble. Her older sister, Hana, is outspoken and interested in protests, but not Shayla. She's the kind of kid who will pick up a desk that has been knocked over by someone else so the her teacher doesn't get upset with the class. She likes hanging out with her friends Julia and Isabella, and doesn't understand why other people think it's weird that they are Japanese American and Latinx and not black. There's a lot of friend drama going on, but also a lot of boy drama. Shayla really likes Jace, with his green eyes, but Taylor is constantly talking to her, and even her annoying lab partner, Bernard, seems to be interested in her. After doing well on the timed mile in gym, Shayla is approached by her gym teacher, who is also the track coach, and Shayla joins the track team. Middle school has its tense moments, but near Shayla's West Los Angeles neighborhood there are even tenser moments-- a police officer has shot a black man, and the trial is bringing the Black Lives Matter movement to the forefront. At first, Shayla is concerned, but not overly interested, but when a verdict of not guilty comes back, she decides she needs to act. She wears a black armband to school, and brings some for friends as well, even though the principal makes an announcement that wearing armbands is against the school dress code. Shayla doesn't want to get in trouble, but feels that it is important to stand up for her beliefs.
Good Points
This has a great middle school voice and excellent grasp of key middle school concerns. Crushes, lunch table musical chairs, scary classmates who turn out to be okay-- so much good stuff. It was good to read a book acknowledging the black suburban experience, and the struggle of wanting to be accepted by friends. The various romances were also spot on, and Ms. Ramee must have chaperoned a LOT of dances to get those details right! The fact that this covers Black Lives Matter issues against this background is a brilliant way to get more readers to pick up this book.

If nothing else, this is a very good snapshot of the historical moment of 2019, but it will see a wide readership because it falls squarely in the "drama" category that is so frequently requested by my students. Readers who enjoy Sharon Draper's Blended, Winston's President of the Whole Fifth Grade, or Springstubb's Every Single Second will find A Good Kind of Trouble a riveting read.
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