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The Price Of The Ticket

Forever Young Adult presents: a review of Black Boy White School by Brian F. Walker

The Price Of The Ticket

BOOK REPORT for Black Boy White School by Brian F Walker

Cover Story: We Were So Close
BFF Charm: Yay!
Swoonworthy Scale: 1
Talky Talk: Straight Up
Bonus Factors: Baldwin-Lite
Relationship Status: Be My Date To Junior Prom

Cover Story: We Were So Close

Almost there. We were almost there! The weird neon-yellow color is a bit strange, but the graphic writing is cool. But then . . . then there's just a floating head. Just a floating head, in the middle of the book. A floating head protruding through the center of the cover. And while I applaud that there is actually a Black person on the cover of a book, his floating, disembodied head freaks me out! It's just . . . hovering there! GAH! I should have included this book in our Big Face division of March Madness. Next year, book; next year. Assuming cover trends stay the same, that is.

The Deal:

Ant Johnson isn't too sure that he wants to leave his family and his friends in East Cleveland to go to fancy Belton Academy in Maine, even if he has won a full scholarship. But when his friend is gunned down in front of Ant's eyes, it's enough to make Ant want to leave town, and quick. But Belton Academy isn't exactly the welcoming, idyllic school that it advertises itself to be. Ant's year is spent constantly deflecting racist remarks and attitudes, from the overt cross-burners to the subtle, friendly white folk who don't know they're racist.

Can Ant carve out a place at Belton? And will doing so cause him to be a stranger to everyone back home?

BFF Charm: Yay!

I really liked Ant a lot. He was a combination of tough and laid-back, a thuggish exterior hiding the Stephen King-loving dreamer inside. More, he just seemed like such a boy - occassionally rude and awful, but mostly just confused and trying to figure out his place in the world.

I'm not sure if Ant would want to share my BFF charm, but I hope he knows that I'll always have his back, wherever life takes him.

Swoonworthy Scale: 1

This isn't a super swoony voice, which isn't to say that there isn't a little bit of a love story. But Gloria, Ant's crush, is too busy being totally awesome to be Ant's girlfriend. Seriously, I love Gloria. I want Gloria to be my girlfriend. Like, in a few years after she goes to NYU and becomes an activist and I meet her at a rally? We're totally going to make out. Mark my words, fictional character!

Talky Talk: Straight Up

Williams' narrative style is straight-forward, unpretentious and, best of all, non-pandering. He doesn't censor his characters' language - Ant and his friends in East Cleveland drop words that would make a sailor blush, but they always sound completely authentic. Actually, I'd recommend this book as required reading for any dumbass internet commentor who inevitably shows up during a debate about the "N" word - you know the ones, "well, if it's okay for them to say it, why can't I?"

At times, the book fell a bit short of characterization - I don't feel like I got to really know anyone but Anthony. But after reading the novel, I felt that the device worked - in this world, the only person you can really know is yourself; you can only guess at the intentions of others by what they display to the world. That said, I'd love to read novels based on Gloria, George and Floyd's perspectives as well, since they were all such compelling characters.

Bonus Factor: Baldwin-Lite

I have said before that James Baldwin is my favorite author of all time, hands down, end of discussion. His writing speaks to me in such a complete way, and I really recommend him to, well, everyone I know. But! Loving Baldwin as I do, sometimes I'm wary of books written about racism, because I wonder if they're going to keep everything at surface level, you know?

This book TOTALLY didn't disappoint in that regard. I was really impressed with the range of topics that Williams tackled in this book, and I feel like it's an excellent high-school level primer about racism. Everything from identity (everyone at Belton insists on calling Ant "Tony," because he needs to fit into their world view) to anti-immigration issues to the damn "black people must be good at sports" bullshit to Uncle Toms to street violence to outright cross-burning is addressed, and I think it gives a good introduction into the pervasiveness of racism in this country.

Relationship Status: Be My Date To Junior Prom

Book, I was not expecting to be that impressed with you (blame the flowing head, obvs), but you really surprised and humbled me. You were sharp, incisive, heartwarming, heartrending, and awesome, and I'd love it if you would be my date to the junior prom. I think we'd havea really great time together, and, bonus: I could tell my kids and college friends all about how awesome you are when I get older. So, what do you say? Wanna slow-dance to Boys II Men together?

FTC Full Disclosure: I received my free review copy from HarperTeen. I received neither money nor cocktails for this review (damnit!). Black Boy White School is available in stores now.

Erin Callahan's photo About the Author: Erin is loud, foul-mouthed, an unrepentant lover of trashy movies and believes that champagne should be an every day drink. When she isn't drowning in a sea of engineers for whom Dilbert is still uproariously funny, she's writing about books, tv, the cult of VC Andrews and more.