1.5 2
by Allison Whittenberg

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Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are at opposite ends of the spectrum—the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it. Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia, where she’s always felt like the only chip in the cookie. Her dad, who fought his way out of the ghetto, doesn’t want her mingling with


Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are at opposite ends of the spectrum—the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it. Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia, where she’s always felt like the only chip in the cookie. Her dad, who fought his way out of the ghetto, doesn’t want her mingling with “those people.” In fact, all Wendy’s life, her father has told her how terrible “those people” are. He even objects to Wendy’s plan to attend a historically black college. But Wendy feels that her race is more than just the color of her skin, and she takes a job tutoring at an inner-city community center to get a more diverse perspective on life.
Hakiam has never lived in one place for more than a couple of years. When he aged out of foster care in Ohio, he hopped a bus to Philly to start over, but now he’s broke, stuck taking care of his cousin’s premature baby for no pay, and finding it harder than ever to stay out of trouble. When he meets Wendy at the tutoring center, he thinks she’s an uppity snob—she can’t possibly understand his life. But as he gets to know her better, he sees a softer side. And eventually—much to the chagrin of Wendy’s father and Hakiam’s cousin—they begin a rocky, but ultimately enlightening, romance.
This edgy story about a star-crossed couple features strong African American characters and sparkles with smart, quirky dialogue and fresh observations on social pressures and black-on-black prejudice.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—College-bound Wendy Anderson, 16, and GED-seeking Hakiam Powell, 17, both African Americans, meet at an inner-city Philadelphia community center where Wendy volunteers as a tutor. Living and going to school in an upscale white suburb, she has felt the sting of prejudice and challenges her condescending father's attitude toward his past and his race. Hakiam has drifted from foster care in Cincinnati to his cousin's apartment where he is stuck taking care of her baby. Despite the teens' vastly different backgrounds and aspirations, a tentative romance begins. Wendy's intelligence, personal goals, persistence, and genuine concern for the baby's welfare ultimately motivate Hakiam to find a job, a safe home, and the willpower to study for his GED. Issues of prejudice, socioeconomic disparities, and family conflict are presented in this engaging story. Wendy's biased father and Hakiam's negligent cousin offer provocative profiles in parenting. Although the teens glide a bit too confidently in and out of each other's homes and neighborhoods, readers will savor the saucy verbal sparring between them, the star-crossed contrast in their backgrounds, and the upbeat ending.—Gerry Larson, Durham School of the Arts, NC
Publishers Weekly
Whittenberg's preachy fourth novel is a classic wrong-side-of-the-tracks romance between two African-American teenagers, Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell, who have had very different upbringings. The narrative alternates between their day-to-day struggles: Wendy lives in an affluent, primarily white suburb of Philadelphia, while Hakiam has been through foster care and then juvie for shoplifting in Cincinnati ("For him, anywhere he went in America would be the third world"). When Hakiam moves to Philly and decides to get his GED, he meets Wendy, who is working as a tutor; they initially butt heads, but soon become a couple, learning about each other's worlds. Whittenberg (Hollywood and Maine) attempts to get at important issues regarding prejudice within the black community, largely through the straitlaced character of Wendy's father, but his arrogant and dismissive attitudes are unconvincing and approach caricature ("Now that's what I call singing," he says, grooving to a corny mall musician. "No filthy lyrics like those ignorant rappers that get played on the radio"). With underdeveloped characters and a too-tidy ending, the story can't escape the feel of an after-school special. Ages 14–up. (Dec.)
Children's Literature - Annie Laura Smith
The main characters in this novel could not have come from more diverse backgrounds. The settings of the story include both an affluent Philadelphia neighborhood and the inner city. Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are both African Americans poles apart socially, financially, and with regard to opportunities. Wendy lives in the affluent neighborhood while Hakiam is a recent ?graduate' of foster care. How then can their lives become so entwined for them to become romantically involved? Although Wendy feels her black heritage is honorable, her father does not want her around ?those people' whom he views as the lower class blacks. She refuses to accept his prejudice against their people, and takes a job tutoring at an inner-city community center where Hakiam has also found refuge. The author provides insight into black-on-black prejudice through these African American characters. The edgy story follows Wendy and Hakiam's attempts to cross the chasm of social standing, finances, and opportunities that divides them, all done in the shadow of her father's prejudice. Reviewer: Annie Laura Smith
Kirkus Reviews

The politics of ethnicity and class are heavily at play in this work of romantic fiction. Seventeen-year-old Wendy has been raised in a white suburb of Philadelphia by her overprotective father, who fears her exposure to the poor black neighborhoods he left behind. Wendy responds to his blatant stereotyping by becoming a tutor in just such a community, where she meets Hakiam. Newly arrived in the city, he's just the sort of boy her dad fears—he spent his adolescence being shuffled through foster homes and now lives with his cousin and her premature, newborn baby. Predictably, the two initially clash but quickly move past their sparring and become intrigued with one another, to the chagrin of both their families. The chemistry between the pair comes about abruptly, but the strength of this story lies in the dynamic between Wendy and Hakiam and in his experiences with her friends. Secondary characters are, unfortunately, not as well developed—both Wendy's dad and Hakiam's cousin are caricatures with whom readers will not be able to empathize. Ambitious and thought-provoking, if flawed. (Fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Random House Children's Books
Publication date:
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Random House
File size:
2 MB
Age Range:
14 Years

Meet the Author

A Philadelphia native and a Virgo, Allison Whittenberg studied dance for years before switching her focus to writing. She has a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin. Her middle-grade novels about Charmaine Upshaw, Sweet Thang and Hollywood and Maine, are available from Yearling, and her first novel for teen readers, Life Is Fine, is available from Delacorte Press. Alison enjoys traveling, and she loves to hear from her readers. Visit her online at www.allisonwhittenberg.com.

From the Hardcover edition.

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