- American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Trade ed. ISBN 978-0-06-247304-2 $17.99
E-book ed. ISBN 978-0-06-247306-6 $9.99
Reviewed from galleys R* Gr. 9-12
Nothing is as it should be when Fabiola arrives in the United States from Haiti: immigration detains her mother, leaving her daughter to go on alone, Detroit isn’t the shining city she’d expected, and her American cousins, Donna, Pri, and Chantal, aren’t like any Haitian girls Fabiola knows. Nonetheless, she dutifully attends school and tries to adjust, all the time desperately seeking a way to free her mother. A police detective approaches her about the illegal activities of Donna’s boyfriend, Dray; in exchange for the cop’s help with her mother’s case, Fabiola’s prepared to deliver Dray his comeuppance for beating Donna, but can she do that without involving her new boyfriend, who’s Dray’s best friend, and her American family? Zoboi’s world is as gritty as a quarry, and Fabiola has few good choices in a world where she’s been implicated for years without knowing it, since the money to send her to school in Haiti came from her aunt’s criminal dealings. Fabulous, as her American friends call her, is no shrinking violet, though, earning her place alongside her deservedly feared cousins. Characterization throughout is rewardingly rich, with brief viewpoints from the rest of the cast adding dimension to their portrayal, and everybody making the choices they feel they must for those close to them (summed up as “shit you do for fam”). The book adds more layers with the ironic metaphor of the family house’s location at the corner of American and Joy Street, the presence and inspiration of Fabiola’s beloved voudou spirits (Papa Legba the trickster plays a key role), and Detroit’s complicated history of motor-trade [End Page 289] and crime bust and boom. At its heart this remains firmly YA, though, with Outsiders-style appeals to loyalty and family that will reach young readers regardless of their background.