MG – Clean Getaway

Stone, Nic. Clean Getaway. Crown Books for Children, 2020. 978-1-984-89297-3. $16.99. 240 p. Grades 6-8.

Nic Stone is typically a popular young adult writer (Dear Martin, Dear Justyce). Her debut in the middle school arena is the realistic, first-person narrative, Clean Getaway. William aka “Scoob” Lamar gets grounded when he shares a computer hack and plans to stay in his entire spring vacation. Until… his G’ma–grandmother–shows up in a RV she purchased with the profit from selling her house and asks him to accompany her on a road trip. Without telling his father, Will becomes G’ma’s wingman on this memorable ride retracing the route G’ma and his deceased grandfather Jimmy took from Georgia through the rest of the South during the segregated sixties. The pair follow the Green Book, a listing of acceptable accommodations for people of color. Will’s grandparents had the added burden of being a mixed race couple, against the law in many states at the time. Will experiences his African-American heritage firsthand, visiting important markers of the struggle for Civil Rights. At first, he is excited for the chance to share this adventure with his beloved grandmother, but then he notices G’ma’s strange behavior: she dines and dashes; switches license plates; steals jewelry. He discovers some things that make him suspect something else is afoot, but can’t quite connect the dots or even reach out to his father because G’ma keeps hiding or ditching their one cell phone. What keeps him going is the revealing conversations he has with his funny and candid G’ma. He realizes how much she loves her long incarcerated husband and suspects that his father may not be fair in his complete rejection of him. The pair’s joy ride comes to a halt when G’ma falls ill, but the experience prompts Will to question the absence of his own mother and the image of his grandfather and rejuvenates his relationship with his sometimes-distant father. Though not a difficult read lexile-wise, Clean Getaway does bring up serious issues of race, inequity, and discrimination. Nic Stone has proven she is a master storyteller for middle school students as well.

THOUGHTS: The intergenerational experience lends itself to history lessons of the Civil Rights era. The discrimination Will’s grandparents encountered in the sixties can be compared with the same displays of implicit bias Will and G’ma feel in their present-day travels. The reason for the grandfather’s imprisonment is also steeped in racial injustice and inequity. Will has little contact with his mother because she abandoned him as a baby–addiction is implied–but Will’s father is reluctant to have her re-enter twelve-year-old Will’s life just like he turned his back on Jimmy, his own father. This situation as well as the racism that necessitated the Green Book lays open talk about forgiving past wrongs, both personal and institutional. 

Realistic Fiction          Bernadette Cooke, School District of Philadelphia

Out of Darkness

darkness

Perez, Ashley Hope. Out of Darkness. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Lab, 2015. 9781467742023. 408p. $18.99. Grades 8 to 12.

“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”

Naomi learns this rule quickly when she moves to East Texas in 1937 with her younger siblings to live with her step-father. With the recent death of her mother, Naomi struggles to find her place in her new family. She is Hispanic, but her stepfather and siblings are white. In a very segregated community, Naomi faces discrimination at every turn, in school, at the store, and even at church. She finds a friend, and eventually love, in Wash, a black teen who understands discrimination and racism all too well. Their secret relationship is found out in the explosive conclusion of the story.

The author based this book on the true events that happened at the New London School in 1937, in which almost 300 students died in a natural gas explosion. Although I found this book to be poignant and beautiful, it was also very difficult to read. There were points in the story that I had to skim past because they were so dark and ugly. Perez takes on difficult issues such as incest and rape, lynch mobs, miscarriage, and brutal racism. She does it in a way that makes the story very real and very emotional to read. I recommend this book for advanced readers, but with caution. This is a tough book to read and is was very emotional to the last page.

Historical Fiction     Corey Hall, Elizabethtown Area MS/HS