If you could get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for anything at all, what would it be? This writing assignment, given out in Ms. Hart's tenth-grade creative writing class, sparks a group of nine students each to tell his/her own story. Readers are introduced to Jake and Shante's interracial romance, Carlos? fear of deportation, and Sunday's determination after being sexually assaulted. These teens persevere through hardship and heartache, laughter and love, and in the end, their voices shine through ...
If you could get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for anything at all, what would it be? This writing assignment, given out in Ms. Hart's tenth-grade creative writing class, sparks a group of nine students each to tell his/her own story. Readers are introduced to Jake and Shante's interracial romance, Carlos? fear of deportation, and Sunday's determination after being sexually assaulted. These teens persevere through hardship and heartache, laughter and love, and in the end, their voices shine through inspiring journal entries that answer the question in unusual and unexpected ways. Once again, Brenda Woods shows a keen understanding of the teenage psyche, as she did in Emako Blue, winner of the 2005 IRA Children's Choice Young Adult Fiction Award.
As catharsis goes, this brief book offers it in many flavors.
- Rayna Patton
Ms. Hart has nine students in her tenth-grade creative writing class, all with plenty on their minds. Shante is unlucky in love; basketball star Marlon, careless of academics, is cocky about his future in the pros; Sunday dislikes and distrusts her mother's new boyfriend, Mr. Johnson, with his greedy roving eyes; clever Mary knows she is fat; Rommi needs to pass her math class to get a gorgeous red Honda. Their final writing assignment is to think of something that might earn them a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Chapter by first-person chapter, the students change from ordinary to remarkable. Mr. Johnson attacks Sunday. She fights him off and ends up shooting him in self-defense. Shante visits a Jamaican psychic and is promised a boyfriend, who turns out to be her white classmate Jake. Her African-American parents are not pleased. Marlon suffers a possibly career-ending injury. Dorian begs for food for his brothers and encounters the kindness of a stranger. Each of the nine comes alive for us as they confront difficulties great and small, and by the end of the year, each can claim to have earned a star. Engaging and insightful writing brings these teenagers to life, while their trials and joys enlist our sympathy and understanding. Author Brenda Woods really understands the complexities of adolescence and is able to weave her characters' disparate lives into a richly colored American tapestry. Teenage readers will surely relate. Reviewer: Rayna Patton
- Maggie Chase
After a small, high school English class begins with a lot of blistering but good-natured banter, the teacher wonders aloud, "What if you could get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for . . . something you're good at? . . . Make it the last entry in your journals . . . I expect something marvelous." This assignment begins glimpses into the lives of nine diverse students, their secrets, dreams, and challenges. Each chapter is told from the perspective of one of the characters, interspersed with third-person chapters that take readers back to the classroom and into the thinking of the teacher, Ms. Hart. The chapters are short, bristling with each teen's distinct personality and voice, and the easy-to-read, sparse narrative, plunges readers into the heart of their personal quests, from the raw fear that Sunday feels whenever she is left alone in the house after being assaulted by her mother's boyfriend, to Dorian's continuous search for food and comfort for his younger siblings. Teens will zip through this book, but if called upon, they might find it difficult to remember the title, as the only aspect of this book that is not compelling is the long, cumbersome title. Reviewer: Maggie Chase
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—Ms. Hart, a tenth-grade English teacher and recent transplant from New York City to Los Angeles, assigns her class of nine students a writing assignment, to be completed in two weeks: "If you could get a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for anything that you're good at, for anything good that you've done or plan to do, what would it be for?" Then in brief, alternating chapters, each character's story unfolds. Marlon is a basketball star who has something to prove to his older brother. Shante is falling for a white boy and facing pressure from family and friends. Gus is small in stature and shy until he gets to know MJ, whose extra weight has been hiding her bright mind. Dorian, the class clown, doesn't want the life his Pops modeled for him. The themes will seem familiar to most teens, but the voices are somewhat uneven with some passages naive or clichéd and others filled with invective and searing emotion. The book ends with the students' essays and leaves an impression of hopefulness that is perhaps unrealistic. Short chapters and the high school setting may make this an attractive choice for reluctant readers, but the characters and story lines are unlikely to be remembered for long.—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI