By Kirkus Reviews
An Indiana teen and her friends try to make sense of the violence in their predominantly African American community.
Rising ninth grader Nia has been trying to find some sense of normality after her paramedic father was murdered during a routine assignment three years ago. Her once-expansive world now myopically circles around her beloved Nancy Drew mysteries, church, best friends Dontay and Miracle Ruth, and Alima, her Palestinian pen pal. Nia is running late to babysit 5-year-old Little Petey when shooting erupts, and he is killed while playing in front of his grandmother’s house. Nia’s guilt—she thinks if she’d arrived on time to watch him, Little Petey might still be alive—leads her to persuade Dontay and Miracle Ruth to help her find the culprit for his murder. Their investigation takes an unexpected turn with the reappearance of Fernando, their Puerto Rican school friend, and his brother. Nia processes her feelings about the neighborhood violence in her letters to Alima, who has also been touched by death and whose experiences parallel hers. The story explores the impact on young people of living with a constant awareness of violence, for example, through Miracle Ruth’s recitations of gun violence statistics and Nia’s desire to get justice for Little Petey, tempered by her fear of being labeled a snitch. Authentic, complex, and compelling friendships lie at the heart of this timely novel.
A thrilling story grounded in a thoughtful exploration of social themes.