Friday, February 23, 2018


Title:  Green
Author:  Sam Graham-Felsen
Publication Information:  Random House. 2018. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0399591141 / 978-0399591143

Book Source:  I received this book through the Penguin First to Read program free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "I am the white boy at the Martin Luther King Middle."

Favorite Quote:  "What I'm trying to say is that best - the only - way to think about things is systemically. That's a big, scary word, so I'll say it again. Sys-tem-ic-ally. I know you came here to ask, 'How did Skip make it?' But I'd rather you ask, 'How come hardly anyone else is making it?' What's the system doing to hold so many of us back?"

I so want to love this book. The discussion of racial and economic inequality is such an important one in our society. Any attempt to add to that conversation in a positive meaningful way are welcome. What makes this book even more intriguing is the fact that it present a different perspective on the conversation. The narrator is David Greenfeld, a middle school student who is one of the few white students at Martin Luther King Jr Middle School in Boston in 1992. He experiences life as a minority in his school.

Interestingly, there is actually a Martin Luther King K-8 school in Boston. I don't know if the reference in the book is to that school, or if the name in the book is given for other, more obvious reasons. It really does not matter to the story; I just like to see if the connections exist in real life.

Another historical note is the fact that the book is set in 1992 around the time of the Rodney King trial. That verdict of the trial led to violent riots in Los Angeles and repercussions on race relations that were felt throughout the country if not the world. This context seems a deliberate choice to add another layer to the story.

The book seeks to the tell the story of a friendship, of boys growing up, and of a realization that inequality exists. David Greenfeld finds that even growing up in an environment where he feels a minority, his race and his parent's socio-economic backgrounds provides him with privileges and opportunities that do not exist for many around him. A powerful lesson.

Because of the topics it discusses and the lesson it intends, I want to love this book. The intention is clearly there. Unfortunately, for me, those points get lost in the telling of this story. The narrator is a middle school boy. If you know middle school boys, you know that that age at times has a language of its own, and at most times, that age is a mix of immaturity and hormones.

It is these factors that make this book a challenge for me. In an attempt to bring to life middle school, the book speaks in slang. Unfortunately, the slang is at times difficult to understand and at times just too much. For me, the language steps over the story and becomes a focal point because I find myself spending more time to understand the words than to capture the meaning.

The other undeniable aspect of that age is puberty and an interest in sexual exploration. Unfortunately, I find much of the repeated sexual references and the slang terminology to describe those interactions off putting. For this reason, while the book has a middle school narrator, parents and educators should preview the book to ensure its appropriateness for their audience. Also, this aspect of growing up is not the intended focus of this book. Unfortunately, for me, it becomes a focal point, taking away from the main story.

I applaud the intent and the effort although the end result is not for me.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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