?

Log in

No account? Create an account
 
 
29 April 2008 @ 11:17 pm
Jacqueline Woodson's AFTER TUPAC AND D FOSTER (4.5 stars)  
"Everyone's got a purpose and it's just that they gotta figure out what it is and then go have it."

That's what D says anyway.

D Foster is the girl who shows up on their block one day at the end of summer. She says she got off the bus in Queens because she liked the way the trees looked. That's the type of girl she is. She's also a roamer, roaming all over the place. Neeka and the unnamed narrator learn very quickly that D has something they don't have, something they're jealous for --- freedom.

The narrator and her single mother are trying to make ends meet. Her best friend Neeka grew up in a large churchy family with a set of issues all their own. Both of them come from a world where mothers are everything and fathers live in the distant background. But even though their families have rules and curfews, they have parents who seem to care, which is something D would trade all the roaming in the world for.

When D first shows up, rapper Tupac Shakur hasn't been shot yet. To these three 12-year-old girls, he's an icon. He sings about the things they're living. They see him and listen to his lyrics, and it's like they're looking at themselves in the words. His art is real. He knows them and their lives and has something to say that means something, and he's supposed to be "for always." Like the best of friends are. Even when the bullets come.

Bullets are a certain kind of bad, but there are other things that hurt just as much, only in other ways. Like how D hasn't seen her real mother in a long time and has to live with her foster mom Flo until who knows when. Or how Neeka's oldest brother Tash is doing time in jail for something stupid. Or how the girls don't know much at all about D besides what she tells them. Which is all you can really know about a friend, isn't it? If they never tell you, how are you supposed to know? With how much time the girls spend together, you'd think they'd know all there is to know about each other --- family and friends, passions and fears, their history. But everyone has their secrets. Even D.

When it comes down to it, Jacqueline Woodson has packed a lot of tough topics into this airtight little story: throwaway kids, jail visits, homosexuality, Tupac's art, fatherlessness, and the hope some kids cling to that they might one day play professional sports. With so many big issues in the mix, it's amazing how smooth the story flows. It's no wonder that her books have earned so much praise --- Newbery Honor Medal, Caldecott Honor, ALA Best Book, National Book Award Finalist, Coretta Scott King Award and the L.A. Times Book Prize, among others.

As Tupac's lyrics did (and still do), Woodson's characters stand there, so familiar, and catch something in the hearts of her readers. Her writing aims high and hits deep. AFTER TUPAC & D FOSTER is another solid performance by a proven name in young adult literature. You won't want to miss it.

--- Reviewed by Jonathan Stephens

If this book review was helpful, please vote for it at Amazon

Copyright 1997-2008, Teenreads.com. All rights reserved.