There are a few thin characterizations…but the voices of Lahni and her miserable parents ring true. And Wright certainly knows how to make you feel the music.
The Washington Post
Wright (Sunday You Learn How to Box) grabs hold of hard-hitting issues in a realistic and poignant novel that fully commands the audience's attention. Fourteen-year-old Lahni Schuler attempts to come to terms both with her status as the only black student in a school for privileged girls and with the news that her white adoptive parents are separating. This heavily freighted narrative evolves into an inspiring story as Lahni discovers a talent for singing and hidden inner strength. Instead of further dramatizing the negative aspects of Lahni's situation, Wright focuses on his character's efforts to surmount them-a strategy that enables readers to feel empowered alongside Lahni. The other major characters-the passionate gospel choir director, Marcus Delacroix III, and the charismatic soloist, Carietta Chisolm-may look like "round, brown, salt and pepper shakers with hair, in blue robes with red satin stoles" the first time she sees them at the front of the church where they sing, but they practically jump off the page with their positive energy and purpose, further amplifying the novel's vivacious spirit. In the end, Lahni is still a work in progress-which, as Wright illustrates, is the point. Ages 12-up. (Jan.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
AGERANGE: Ages 12 to 16.
Lahni Schuler is the adopted daughter of two loving parents. They are white. She is black. And they have always been a family. Then, Lahni's father decides he wants a divorce. Lahni's days are then spent comforting her distraught mother as her anger against her father grows. At school, things are just as complicated. Lahni has been nominated for a singing competition by her teacher Mr. Faringhelli. As part of the competition she will have to sing a song in front of the whole school. It is not something she is looking forward to doing, and Mr. Faringhelli will not take no for an answer. Caught up in these trying times, Lahni and her mother begin attending a local church. It is there that Lahni hears the church's amazing gospel choir. She soon joins. Not only does Lahni get the help she needs for the upcoming competition, she also finds a place where she can discover her own identity. This was an enjoyable read with all the twists and turns that are a part of life. Lahni's struggles are palpable, and the search for her identity is honest. The text comes alive with the vivid undertones of well-crafted scenery and characterization. The secondary and some tertiary characters are carefully rendered, and Lahni's first-person narrative actively pulls the reader into her world. This is a recommended read. Reviewer: Monserrat Urena
KLIATT - KLIATT Review
Growing up is difficult, but it's even harder when you are 15-year-old Lahni Schuler and you feel like an outsider at home and at school. Lahni is the only black student at The Darby School for Girls in Connecticut, and she is the only black person at home, too. Her adoptive parents are loving, but culturally Lahni feels deprived. When her parents decide to get a divorce, both Lahni and her mother find solace at the Church of the Good Shepherd where Lahni joins the choir and connects with black people for the first time. The choir director, Marcus Delacroix, and the soloist, Carietta Chisolm, become Lahni's closest friends. Some readers might consider Marcus and Carietta stereotypes. Both of them are fat and love to eat, but Marcus wears flamboyant outfits, flashy jewelry, and women's shoes to suggest his sexuality. One of the subplots involves a white teen who emulates the persona (i.e., rap music, baggy clothes, nickname Onyx 1, and so on) of an urban black teen and nearly stalks Lahni. This seems to be a forced device the author uses to further reinforce Lahni's own confusion about her identity. The conclusion is predictable too. Lahni has been nominated to compete for an art award. Accompanied by Marcus, she sings the winning solo, and it is suggested that her peers will begin to accept her. Despite a few flaws, the depiction of the love expressed in Lahni's adoptive family as well as the tension vividly portrayed when her father moves from New Clarion to New York with his lover is realistic and moving. Wright's use of language is mesmerizing. Age Range: Ages 12 to 18. REVIEWER: KaaVonia Hinton, Ph.D. (Vol. 42, No. 1)
Quiet, nanve Lahni is having a tough year. Being the only African American in an exclusive all-girls' school in a suburb of New York City has always been a trial. The fact that her adoptive parents are white only adds to her challenge. When bad boy trouble and a potential divorce are added, the situation becomes almost more than she can handle. Her mother is struggling as well. She eventually drags Lahni with her to an interracial church where everything begins to fall into place for both of them. Lahni meets African American adults for the first time and finds out that it is okay to "use her own voice" both singing in the choir and dealing with her friends and family. Without sugarcoating anything, Wright easily juggles the many issues found in the book with wit, compassion, and humor. The writing is clear, succinct, and never condescending. The main characters are shown as multifaceted people with strengths and weaknesses effectively adding to the authenticity of the book. Recommend this one to middle and high school girls who enjoy books about social situations and fitting in. Reviewer: Angie Hammond
Lahni is adopted. She is black, and her parents are white. They are great parents who have always had a great relationship with her and with each other. She is the only black girl in her private school. None of this has ever been a problem, but now Lahni's life is full of problems. Her parents are divorcing, and it is turning her world upside down. For the first time, kids at school are making an issue of her race, especially one weird guy. All of this leaves Lahni wondering who she really is. When her music teacher enters her in a school talent competition, she has a chance to find outand make new friends while she does. Today, there is a real need for books with interracial themes and situations. Bil Wright offers one that addresses the issue from a different angle and is a fun read. Reviewer: Teri Walton
School Library Journal
In her eighth-grade year at a private girls' school in Connecticut, African-American Lahni Schuler transitions from feeling like an outsider to achieving self-confidence and self-acceptance. Her adoptive, white parents are separating, and an intimidating white boy is harassing her. Selected to compete for a school music award, Lahni is reluctant to perform or to tell her distracted parents about the competition. When her mother takes her to an interdenominational church, Lahni is captivated by the soulful exuberance of the gospel singing of Carietta Chisholm. She joins the choir and responds to the vocal inspiration of the flamboyant, talented director and organist, Marcus Delacroix III. As Lahni finds her own musical voice, she also begins to accept her parents' divorce, and she confronts her stalker in an outburst of ethnic pride. Lahni is an appealing heroine. Her repartee with insensitive peers, her distress over parental discord, her candid self-assessments, and her attraction to African-American singing ring true. Her white friend, Katie, and a racially mixed cast of supportive adults help Lahni to express her true self. Readers will enjoy the distinctive characters, lively dialogue, and palette of adolescent and racial insecurities in this contemporary, upbeat story.
Gerry LarsonCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
* "Wright grabs hold of hard-hitting issues in a realistic and poignant novel that fully commands the audience's attention." Publishers Weekly, starred review
"Readers will enjoy the distinctive characters, lively dialogue, and palette of adolescent and racial insecurities in this contemporary, upbeat story."School Library Journal
"Without sugarcoating anything, Wright easily juggles the many issues found in the book with wit, compassion and humor. The writing is clear, succinct, and never condescending. The main characters are shown as multifaceted people with strengths and weaknesses effectively adding to the authenticity of the book."VOYA
"Lahni's clear, first-person narrative is so authentic, expressing Lahni's identity conflicts even as tension mounts to an exciting climax."Booklist