Sellout

( 4 )

Overview


A stunning and powerful debut.

NaTasha has a wonderful life in affluent Park Adams: she's popular, wealthy, and being the only African American in her school has never even crossed her mind. So when she spends the summer with her spitfire grandmother, Tilly, volunteering at a teen crisis center for troubled girls in the Bronx, she's surprised to find that for the first time in her life she doubts herself. The girls at Amber's Place are rough, streetwise, sure of themselves, and...

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Sellout

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Overview


A stunning and powerful debut.

NaTasha has a wonderful life in affluent Park Adams: she's popular, wealthy, and being the only African American in her school has never even crossed her mind. So when she spends the summer with her spitfire grandmother, Tilly, volunteering at a teen crisis center for troubled girls in the Bronx, she's surprised to find that for the first time in her life she doubts herself. The girls at Amber's Place are rough, streetwise, sure of themselves, and they wield their secrets like knives. They hate NaTasha. They call her a sellout. She could run back to Park Adams, and everything would go back to normal. But she doesn't. There are two boys in the neighborhood who like her and back home she's never had a boyfriend. And there a couple of girls at the center who have opened up to her, showing her a light at the end of the tunnel. So NaTasha stands her ground and discovers that friendship, love, and joyful self-discovery have been waiting for her all along.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As an African-American, NaTasha is in the minority in her New Jersey suburb, but her social situation changes drastically and presents a set of new challenges when she spends several weeks with her grandmother, Tilly, in Harlem. Tilly is a well-crafted, fiery character who volunteers at Amber's Place, a teen crisis center. She brings NaTasha with her in hopes of broadening her experience, though NaTasha feels out of her league ("I didn't belong here, among these girls.... Their stories were straight from the talk shows, stories that weren't even real"). A trio of aggressive, cliquey girls resent NaTasha for her perceived snobbery, and over the course of the novel, all the girls are forced to release their preconceived notions about each other, face their fears, and work together in order to plan a graduation/recognition ceremony. NaTasha has a tendency to spell out every detail of what she's thinking or going through, but it's rewarding to watch her growth, as she recognizes her own problems (at one point confessing she wishes she weren't black), while debut author Wilkins explores the building of confidence, morals, and survival skills. Ages 12-up. (July)
Children's Literature - Lauri Berkenkamp
The fact that NaTasha is the only African-American girl in her lily-white suburb has never bothered her much, but when she experiences a humiliating disaster involving a fake hairpiece at the ballet recital she didn't want to attend, she acquiesces to her grandmother Tilly's wishes to spend some time at Tilly's apartment in Harlem. Tilly wants NaTasha to experience life in the city and learn more about where her family originated. NaTasha is initially reluctant, especially since Tilly wants her to volunteer at a youth center that has special programs for troubled teenage girls the same age as NaTasha. And, somewhat predictably, NaTasha doesn't fit in at all with the girls at the center, who call her a "sellout" because she talks like she's white and wears clothes more appropriate for the wealthy suburbs. Over the course of the summer with Tilly, however, NaTasha learns to become comfortable with who she is as a person of color, and also learns not to tamp down the things she likes about herself to fit in with others. NaTasha learns to hold her own with the girls at the youth center, and she experiences the ups and downs of first romance. Overall, Wilkins has succeeded in combining a fairly standard coming-of-age story with issues of race and violence without overdoing it. A few of the characters are fairly shallowly drawn, particularly the adults in the book: Tilly, although appealing, is a walking stereotype of a strong black woman who cooks up a storm and alternatively scolds and cares for everyone in her neighborhood, and the adults at the youth center don't have much impact. Several of the girls in the youth center are stock tough girls, as are NaTasha's white friends. NaTasha, however, is excellently portrayed as a conflicted girl coming to terms with accepting her differences and embracing her strengths. This is an entertaining and uplifting read, although the content is mature. Appropriate for middle school and up. Reviewer: Lauri Berkenkamp
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—This warm if message-heavy novel about race, fitting in, and finding oneself stars high school freshman NaTasha, an insecure African American who attends a snooty white school in suburban New Jersey. Wanting to maintain her popularity with her white friends, particularly Heather, NaTasha painstakingly irons her hair and forces herself to learn ballet. NaTasha spends the summer in Harlem with her grandmother, Tilly, who volunteers at a crisis center in the Bronx. Initially, Tash feels she has little in common with these rough girls whose struggles include addiction, abuse, self-destructive behavior, pregnancy, and prison. They are nasty to NaTasha, considering her a snobby "sellout." At the center of the story is Tilly, a strong, opinionated community pillar whose loving but firm influence inspires her granddaughter even as NaTasha struggles to make sense of the Amber's Place girls' hostility, Heather's betrayals, and the attentions of two intriguing neighbor boys. Some elements of the story tie up too easily—NaTasha's greatest tormentors warm up to her a bit too quickly to be believed—but the message of staying true to oneself shines through.—Megan Honig, New York Public Library
From the Publisher

Praise for Sellout

“The message of staying true to oneself shines through.”–School Library Journal

“Successfully presents a character open to the change she experiences.”–Kirkus Reviews

“Debut author Wilkins explores the building of confidence, morals, and survival skills.”–Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780545109284
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 7/1/2010
  • Pages: 272
  • Age range: 12 years
  • Lexile: 720L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author


Ebony Joy Wilkins was called worse names in high school than "sellout", but the word did inspire her first novel for young adults. Ebony lives in Chicago, Illinois. Visit her online at www.ebonyjoywilkins.com.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by John Jacobson, aka "R.J. Jacobs" for TeensReadToo.com

    NaTasha is nearly the only girl of color in her mainly white, middle-class suburban school, but that isn't such a big deal to her. She has a best friend, Heather, and she does ballet with her, which is a weak attempt at trying to be popular. NaTasha would rather be on the volleyball court anyway, but Heather's such a good friend, and fitting in is something she wants to do. Everyone in her family - even her grandmother, Tilly - comes to her latest recital, where something as simple as trying to fit in turns into an event of pure humiliation for NaTasha.

    If there's one thing Tilly's tired of, it's seeing her granddaughter trying to be something she's not. She proposes that NaTasha come and live with her for a few weeks in New York - to get a feel for where her family came from before they lived in the squeaky clean suburbs. NaTasha would also have to help out at the local help center for girls that Tilly volunteers at every day. It isn't the best thing - she'll have to leave behind Heather, the chances of impressing the local hottie, and deal with homesickness - but NaTasha feels like she needs some time away. Maybe it'll do her good.

    What happens to NaTasha is reminiscent of the best stories about someone finding who they are and learning about their roots. She comes to understand that the girls at the home are different, but strong in their resolve. She doesn't fit in so well there, either. How's a girl from the suburbs supposed to compare to a group of girls who have been in and out of juvenile hall, fights, pregnancies, abusive relationships, and bleaching their skin to forget about the names they are called day after day? NaTasha realizes everyone has their problems - and that spending time at the home with these girls may be more helpful than she thought. Ebony Joy Wilkins has a wonderful debut novel in SELL-OUT that speaks to a tougher generation about their origins and about that equality we all share - whether we like it or not.

    Before I started reading, I was worried I wouldn't like NaTasha. I mean, the spelling alone is a little odd. Usually weird spellings of names can be weird. The PoC cliche of being constantly abused because of one's color was also a worry - not that it doesn't happen or that it isn't serious, but that it happens constantly from every single source. SELL-OUT manages to avoid cliches and focus on a story that's modern yet timeless.

    NaTasha's journey is different. She's not made fun of at her school in the suburbs. They don't torture her or make fun of her skin color, or even show much care for it. It's all about the underlying differences. NaTasha and her friend, Heather, try to make her like everyone else - and the fitting in suffocates who NaTasha really is. She tries to change her hair, and doesn't do the sport she likes just to be like the popular white girls. What's interesting is that NaTasha, on some level, knows that what she's doing isn't great from the beginning, which is realistic and perceptive. Usually, we are given a protagonist who is amazingly ignorant of themselves. NaTasha is smarter than that, shown by her agreement to go and help Tilly. Her narration shows that perceptiveness, and it made me really respect NaTasha as a character...

    Read the full review at www.teensreadtoo.com

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2013

    Omg

    Omg this goes boss mode the review below this one is my other one brah like a boss<3 :D

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2013

    A great book

    My favorite book

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 11, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Just Be Yourself

    NaTasha Jennings is the only person of color in an entire school district and her grandmother, Tillithia Mae Evans (Tilly), doesn't like it. She believes her granddaughter is isolated and she wants her to get out into the world and experience things for herself. NaTasha's parents agree to let her spend the summer with Tilly in the Bronx. Will NaTasha be able to handle life in a place so different from what she's used to or will she go back home before the summer is over? I know this book is about NaTasha but I really have to start with Tilly: I liked this godly woman , who was full of wisdom and could cook up a storm. I enjoyed her humor and it was nice how everyone loved her and I really loved how much she loved NaTasha. For the most part she was a positive influence on her granddaughter, but I didn't see why she thought that putting NaTasha amongst a bunch of angry, lost girls would help her to learn about who she is. With all the hurt Miss Tilly experienced in her life, I can't understand why she felt it'd be beneficial to put NaTasha in a place where she could experience the same hurts. In the predominantly white world she lived in, NaTasha had no peers who looked like her. She made certain choices to try to fit in and to be liked by the guys. At Amber's Place there may have been girls of color but she was bullied (verbally and physically abused) by those girls because they felt she was nothing like them. She seemed to be an outcast no matter where she was. It saddened me that she was placed in such a hostile environment to `find herself'. NaTasha's dad and mom were concerned about her, as they should have been, and so was I. NaTasha was a good girl with a good heart and lots of common sense. At one point, she had the opportunity to get back at one of the girl's who had harmed her, but she took the high road and when a certain guy turned out to be totally different than what she thought, she didn't allow herself to be pressured into doing something she knew she'd regret. She was placed in a hostile environment to `find herself', which, again, I did not think was necessary, but she did find new friends, even though they'd probably never be best friends and she was able to get help styling her natural hair. She also learned a very important lesson from a rough summer in the Bronx: There's always going to be someone who wouldn't like her for whatever reason, so it was easier for her to just be herself. Quiana: Trouble maker and instigator. I figured she was striking out because she was hurting. Maria was in a situation that, unfortunately, many of today's teenage girls end up in. Monique wasn't very good at choosing her boyfriends. Or maybe she didn't think she deserved better. And Shauna's story was really a sad one. This was an interesting read that brought back a few memories. (Thank God, I no longer have to sit in front of the stove so my mom can take a hot straightening comb through my hair) And I liked that the author had no problem including a church service or have Miss Tilly talk about the Lord and give God praise.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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