School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Told from the perspective of Esme Rockett, this novel follows the teen and her friends as they coalesce as Sister Mischief, an all-girl hip-hop group, and depicts Esme's first same-sex relationship. Esme and her girlfriends and bandmates Marcy (DJ SheStorm), Tess (The ConTessa), and Rowie (MC Rohini) have always felt out of place in their small, conservative Minnesota town and, as outcasts, are often the target of the popular students' ridicule. When the girls petition to form a hip-hop gay-straight alliance, they face more derision and even opposition from the administration, but find strength in the community. The narrative voice is peppered with hip-hop slang and often achieves a kind of poetic effect, particularly as Esme describes her encounters with and admiration for her lover, Rowie. These encounters aren't explicit, but they are sensual and culminate in questions of identity and living "out" for both Esme and her would-be girlfriend. Goode incorporates the trope of footnotes to document the characters' text messages and Esme's spur-of-the-moment scribbling in her journal, and this feature neither adds nor detracts from the greater narrative. The novel is notable for the uncommon credit for critical thought it gives its characters, and their ruminations on hip-hop history, sexism, and social alliances are inspiring, though in some cases (in the proposed student alliance mission statement, for example), they veer into unrealistically academic territory. A nontraditional approach to an uncommon subject, Sister Mischief sets the lesbian coming-of-age narrative within a markedly positive hip-hop culture of the characters' own creation.—Amy S. Pattee, Simmons College, Boston
Debut novelist Goode shows she's as much of a "word nerd" as her characters—four juniors bringing their queer-friendly brand of hip-hop to Minnesota's Twin Cities, like it or not. High School Musical this ain't: soon after readers meet Esme, the book's verse-slinging, no-nonsense narrator, she's losing her virginity in the back seat of Charlie Knutsen's Camry, basically to confirm what she already knows: "Definitely a homo. Like Same-Sex City, population Esme." She and her friends Marcy, Rowie, and Tessa are Sister Mischief, a hip-hop crew taking their lead from Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, and other pioneering female rappers. But when they try to form a club devoted to discussing queer and hip-hop culture, they find opposition from school policies and classmates, and a clandestine relationship between Esme and Rowie threatens the group's stability. Conversations about (admittedly important) issues—such as the politics of suburban white girls rapping—can feel forced, but Goode knows her stuff. The girls have an encyclopedic knowledge and deep love of hip-hop, and Esme's emotionally charged rhymes flow freely. If ever a book needed a soundtrack—or a beatbox—this is it. Ages 14–up. (July)
From the Publisher
"This is a feminist love letter to my own mischievous sisters."
- Laura Goode — Quote
VOYA - Angi Barnard
Sister Mischief is, without a doubt, one of the most touching and real stories of the hip-hop literary genre. With an eclectic cast of characters and an interesting story line, this book will keep you reading until the very last page. Despite the heavy use of Ebonics and the over-the-top attitude of the main character, Esme, and her friends, this book is an enjoyable read for teenagers of all ages. Reviewer: Angi Barnard, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Madelene Rathbun Barnard
Aside from the over-the-top hip hop street talk, the message is strong. In her debut novel, author Laura Goode provides a rally call for non-conformity. In the spirit of the Rainbow Boys series by Alex Sanchez (Simon & Schuster, 2001-2005), Sister Mischief is a wonderful GLBT read. Sister Mischief is the name of a hip hop band lead by Esme (aka MC Ferocious). She is a Jewish lesbian with a poet's heart. On strong vocals is Tess (aka ConTessa). She is a former Lutheran teen queen who has a powerful voice. There is also Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm). Breaking stereotypes, Marcy is described as the "butchest straight girl in town." Rounding out the crew is Esme's co-emcee, Rowie (MC Ronini). She must juggle the traditional demands of her Bengali family and her attraction for Esme. The girls reside in a predominately heterosexual, white, affluent, Christian town. They are not homogenous with the community. At times, the plot is difficult to follow due to weak grammatical structures intertwined with text messages, but readers will applaud heroine, Esme, and her band of friends. This debut novel is a funny and tender coming-of-age story. It reminds us to stand by our friends. Reviewer: Madelene Rathbun Barnard
Children's Literature - Amy McMillan
Esme is the lead singer of an all-girl hip hop band, a Jew, and motherless. So, when she decides to be the first in her small, conservative Minnesota town to come out, it is just one more thing to make her stand out and not necessarily in a good way. When their school bans hip-hop, the four band members form a club in protest and end up changing the way the administration handles music, sexuality, race, and religion. They create a safe space for those who may not fit into the Protestant, white majority. Struggling with her budding feelings for a band mate and the everyday teen issues of navigating school and the social scene Esme is a character many will relate to. There is an interesting use of footnotes throughout the story showing text messages, Facebook posts and Esme's journal entries and song lyrics that adds a great dimension to the traditional linear narrative. The issues of tolerance and fighting stereotypes are valid and important if a little over-the-top and in-your-face in this piece. While realistically portrayed, it is full of strong language, frank sexual talk and situations, underage drinking, and drug use, making it more appropriate for a slightly older audience. Reviewer: Amy McMillan
Hip-hop and rap, racial tensions, sex positivity, religion, coming out, even parental abandonment: At its low points, this reads like a checklist of hot-button issues.
But beneath the politics and too many lists of hip-hop/rap artists lies a touching story of impossible first love between narrator Esme, who knows she likes girls, and good friend Rohini, who might like girls but whose family is too traditionally Indian for her to even consider openly questioning her sexuality. There is also an improbable but entertaining students-against-administration subplot as the girls (Esme, Rohini, tough-but-beautiful Marcy and good girl Tess, who has fallen out with the A-list Christians) fight a recent ruling against any rap or "associated" apparel or materials at school. They create an alternative 4H (Hip-hop for Heteros and Homos) and hijack an assembly to drop some seriously intellectual beats. Highlighting the clutter of issues are frequent intrusions of a political, message-heavy adult voice. Do teen rappers, even white Jewish lesbians in the Christian heartland, really come up with lines like "We're done with sex hypocrisy up in this here gynocracy"?
Snappy dialogue, likable characters and an original concept make it hard to entirely dismiss this one, but the message overwhelms the good stuff. (Fiction. 14-17)