Published by Balzer + Bray
Summary: Shayla’s palms start to sweat whenever she thinks she’s about to get in trouble. As she starts seventh grade, she tries to blend in and avoid trouble whenever possible. She feels good that her two best friends always have her back–Puerto Rican Isabella, Japanese American Julie, and African American Shayla call themselves the United Nations. But junior high brings lots of changes–Julie starts hanging around with the “Asian kids” and sometimes ditching Isabella and Shayla; Shayla discovers a love of running and joins the track team; boys enter the picture in a variety of ways; and Shayla’s older sister encourages her to become part of Black Lives Matter when a trial for a police shooting brings about a wave of protests. Shayla ends her first year of junior high with her friendships changed but intact, a new sense of confidence, and the knowledge that sometimes it’s worth getting into trouble to stand up for what you believe. 368 pages; grades 4-7.
Pros: This is a great late-elementary and middle school alternative to Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. Shayla is a character many kids will relate to. First-time author Raméée doesn’t back down from the racial issues, but she also makes it clear there are no easy answers. The three girls are open about the issues they face because of their race/heritage, but don’t let them stand in the way of their friendship.
Cons: A heads-up to elementary school librarians to be aware this contains a certain amount of puberty discussion.