Part mystery, part coming-of-age narrative this is a captivating story of friendship, found family, and what it means to belong.
There have been quite a few new developments in 12-year-old Alberta Freeman-Price’s life. Her best friend is suddenly more into boys than surfing, her surrogate mother is moving in and, most exciting of all, a Black girl moved in across the street. Alberta is ecstatic to have another Black girl in the majority-white oceanside town of Ewing Beach. But Edie Whitman, with her Brooklyn pride and goth aesthetic, is not at all what the sunny, surf-loving Alberta expects.
When the girls discovers a collection of diaries detailing the life of a Black woman passing for white in the 1950s, they unravel the mystery of how the diaries ended up in Ewing Beach and where the owner might be.
Now, I know.
If there is one thing publishing loves (across all genres) it’s books about a Black person in a majority white space. I’ve read quite a few of these and I struggle with them because they tend to center on whiteness and what it means to be “other”. That is not at all what Colbert is doing here. While Alberta and Edie recognize they are a minority they are also secure in their Blackness and the narrative leaves room to explore the diversity within the Black identity.
I thought it was clever the way Colbert juxtaposed passing with being the only Black girl in a space. Edie and Alberta are, essentially, searching for another Black girl in town. The blending of the historical diary entries and the present-day coming of age narrative reminded me of Holes.
I am not super well versed in middle grade but I was kind of surprised which references were given context and which didn’t. The are mentions of Emmett Till and Edie Sedgwick (Edie’s namesake) but they don’t go into detail about who they are. Meanwhile, when boys tease Edie by calling her Wednesday Adams, the reference and joke are explained. I just feel like Addams Family gets remade enough that kids get the reference but I’m not sure how many 10-year-old readers are aware of Emmett Till? Then again, I guess kids can Google? IDK.
As a “middle-aged” millennial, I feel like we didn’t have middle-grade books like this back in the day. Especially for girls. I remember being in an awkward phase in middle school where I was too old for the version of teenagehood that Babysitter’s Club offered but not quite ready for what was going on in Judy Blume’s YA. Books like this bridge that gap nicely and I really need to look more into what is going on in middle grade. I was browsing some Goodreads lists and there are some intriguing stories being told in that genre.
I did a majority of this on audiobook. Jeanette Illidge is amazing on the audiobook, she has a youthful voice that reads perfectly for Alberta. She also deftly switches up between the different American accents for the diverse array of characters.
I really need to dig into Colbert’s backlist, she’s been doing some nonfiction lately and I can’t wait to see what her return to fiction looks like.
I’m a lifelong reader who started blogging about YA books in 2011 but now I read in just about every genre! I love YA coming of age stories, compelling memoirs and genre bending SFF. You can find me talking all things romance at Romance and Sensibility.