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Sister Mischief

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A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest ...

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Sister Mischief

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A gay suburban hip-hopper freaks out her Christian high school - and falls in love - in this righteously funny and totally tender YA debut, for real.

Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities - or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. Exciting new talent Laura Goode lays down a snappy, provocative, and heartfelt novel about discovering the rhythm of your own truth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is a feminist love letter to my own mischievous sisters."
- Laura Goode — Quote
Publishers Weekly
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)
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
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
Kirkus Reviews

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)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780763664565
  • Publisher: Candlewick Press
  • Publication date: 8/6/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 1,033,990
  • Age range: 14 years
  • Lexile: 850L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura Goode was raised in Minneapolis and received her BA and MFA in English and writing from Columbia University. She has written and directed two full-length plays, and her poetry has appeared in the Denver Quarterly, Cannibal, and Narwhal. She lives in San Francisco.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 4 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Reviewed by Sally Kruger aka "Readingjunky" for TeensReadToo

    Esme, Tess, Rowie, and Marcy are typical high school juniors in most areas. They are good students with their eyes set on top-notch colleges. For the most part, they don't give their parents any grief, and they keep their noses clean in school. However, they do have one passion - and when school authorities declare that this passion is no longer to be allowed at school, the girls rebel. Holyhill High School is adding a new policy to its school conduct code, and each student is required to sign it. The new policy outlaws hip-hop music and any apparel, or behavior, associated with it. This has Esme and her friends seething. The girls may not look like it, but they are hip-hop rappers to the core. They call themselves Sister Mischief, and they are good. Tess is the vocalist, Marcy provides the beat, and Esme and Rowie work together to create the rhymes. Hip-hop lets them express who they are. Tess used to hang out with the conservative Christian majority who populate the school district, but she stepped over to the hip-hop side when she began doubting her faith. Marcy's rhythm comes from her involvement in the high school band's drumline. Rowie is the daughter of two Indian doctors, and Esme lives with her artistic father and considers herself a true word nerd and a lesbian. When news of the new anti-hip-hop policy reaches the girls, they all agree they will not be signing it. Their real plan for rebellion comes when they are called to the principal's office about their refusal to sign. As spokeswoman of the group, Esme announces that they are starting a new school club devoted to the study of hip-hop music and the possibility of using it to create a positive view of sexuality, especially regarding women. The principal agrees to a deal, allowing them to hold their meetings in a location just off the school campus in return for their signatures on the form. It is obvious that the school administration is not supportive of the girls' new group, and when they become a target for harassment, they are determined to retaliate. With the help of their growing membership and the behind-the-scenes support of a possible staff advisor, they are out to change the attitude of one of the most highly regarded high schools in the country. In addition to their quest to have hip-hop recognized as an important musical genre, the girls are also learning very personal lessons about love, loyalty, and understanding. When Esme reveals to her friends that she is a lesbian, the relationships in the group go through changes that threaten the long-time friendships. Author Laura Goode uses creative language and intense emotions to grab her readers and involve them in the girls' passion for their cause. The stresses of school, family issues, and self-discovery make SISTER MISCHIEF a book teens will surely relate to.

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  • Posted July 20, 2011

    Lively and philosophical hip-hop YA book

    I could see this as movie. It would be a great Disney type movie except for the cursing and lesbians. And, while you might be able to lose the cursing, the lesbian part is a big part of why this book works in a different way from the standard YA love story. Music is hard to read on paper and rarely comes through so while I could picture the girls rapping and singing I couldn't really "hear" it. But the message comes across pretty well despite the discrepancies of medium.

    Overall, it was worth reading. If you love hip-hop, then this is the story for you. If you love LGBT stories, then this is the story for you. If you like high school empowerment , then this is the story for you. If you don't like any of the above, well, then I don't know what to tell you.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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