What Lane?

What Lane?
Age Range
Release Date
April 14, 2020
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Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

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Fitting in/Standing out
Overall rating
Plot/Characters/Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Stephen lives in Brooklyn with his father, a Black teacher, and his mother, a white librarian. He hangs out a lot with his neighbor Dan, and has started to notice that when the two are out in public, people will gave Stephen a hard time for things that Dan is doing, too, but never speak to him. This could be when the two are in a store or slap boxing in the street. When Stephen talks to his parents about these growing microaggressions, his father wants him to know the painful reality of being a Black man in today's society, but his mother wants to shelter him. This is not possible when Dan's cousin, Chad, who lives in the neighborhood is openly hostile to Stephen. He is also an instigator for sketchy activities like breaking into an abandoned factory and having a haunted house. When a Black classmate, Wes, reconnects with Stephen, he warns him that Chad is bad news, but also encourages Stephen to hang out more with his Black friends. This line of thinking is intensified when a Black Lives Matter bulletin board goes up in school, and Stephen starts to think more about "what lane" people put him in. He tries to get his two friend groups to hang out more together, and when Chad becomes more aggressive in his actions, he realizes that it's important to be aware of how society views him, and to be active in his response to that.
Good Points
Along with Ramee's A Good Kind of Trouble, this is an important book to highlight the treatment of Black people in the US. Seen through Stephen's eyes, we get details provided in a way that Black children dealing with this every day will see their experiences reflected, and others who haven't seen this will be able to understand. Fitting in with friends is a huge part of adolescent development, and when those friends change, it can be devastating. The length of the book is perfect, the cover fantastic, and the writing solid and easy to understand.

Stephen's problems with Dan are the type that middle school students will have seen, but maybe not fully processed, depending on what their view of the matter is. There are a lot of books about bullying, but actual bullying in middle school usually bears no resemblance to the portayals of fights on the playground or "swirlies" in the bathroom; it almost always more subtle, going well underneath the radar of teachers and administrators. It's good to see literature that reflects that reality.
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