Author: Lisa Moore Ramée
Shayla Willows is starting the seventh grade at Emerson Junior High in southern California. She manages all of the usual struggles of adolescence: awkward physical changes, evolving friendships, family dynamics, academics (though that part seems to come easily to her), etc. She also struggles to find her racial identity, some peers telling her she's not Black enough. Meanwhile, in the broader world, Black people are getting shot by police officers. As a result, the Black Lives Matter movement becomes an important part of Shayla's journey.
A Good Kind of Trouble is rated "middle grade." While it deals with heavy subjects like racism, murder and injustice, the material isn't graphic enough to require a move to the YA shelves. It's not an obvious book choice for a middle-aged man but I enjoyed it. It's a quick read. I breezed through all 358 pages in under 24 hours. I'm grateful for the honest and challenging perspective of a young person of color. As both educator and world citizen, I need more of that.
It's a hopeful story. Shayla's struggles are painful but there are plenty of successes along the way. She makes new friends and manages to keep the old (one is silver and the other...). She discovers unexpected talent and grit when she joins the track team. She finds both a place in her new community and a voice for protest and social change.
Ramée alludes to, but never directly addresses, homosexuality and homophobia. It is strongly implied that both a favorite teacher and Shayla's older sister Hana are gay, though the text never says so explicitly. In fact, it's pretty clear Shayla doesn't see it in either case - more of a wink and a nod to the reader. It's a tricky topic in today's publishing world, especially in youth literature.
Overall, it's a strong book, both readable and relatable.