I really wanted to love Allison Whittenberg‘s new book Tutored. Allison is a phenomenal writer, her first book, Sweet Thang, was a favorite for Pop and myself and the sequel, Hollywood and Maine can’t stay on the shelves at my library. So when I heard about Tutored and read the blurb I was hooked.
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.
What I like:
I love that Allison writes about Black characters, There is often an us versus them attitude in the Black community and this book highlights it. She makes the division that people who love outside of Philadelphia feel real and without preaching (much) she shows how the slightest bit of change can be terrifying to some people.
What I didn’t like:
The book read as if it were a series of short stories featuring characters. Loud, ghetto girl? check! Self hating well to do Black man? Check! Headstrong chick who wants to save the world? Check! Thug type who wants to change the world? They were all there. There was really no really clear explanation as to why Wendy’s dad was so hateful and mean towards people, he seemed to be so stuck into his head that he couldn’t see the life his daughter felt she had to make for herself and seemed almost cartoonish.
If you are looking for positive books featuring African American characters, check out her earler works. This one was only OK.
What say you?
Have you ever been drawn to a complete opposite?