If you’re looking for a new release to add to your January TBR, I’ve got a good one. Sam Graham-Felsen’s debut novel Green is a really great coming-of-age novel that addresses race and privilege in America. I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this book, but I ended up loving it, which was completely unexpected.
(All reviews are spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.)
(From Goodreads) “This isn’t some Jedi bull****; the force I’m talking about is real, and its energies are everywhere, working on everyone.”
Boston, 1992. David Greenfeld is one of the few white kids at the Martin Luther King Middle School. Everybody clowns him, girls ignore him, and his hippie parents won’t even buy him a pair of Nikes, let alone transfer him to a private school. Unless he tests into the city’s best public high school–which, if practice tests are any indication, isn’t likely–he’ll be friendless for the foreseeable future.
Nobody’s more surprised than Dave when Marlon Wellings sticks up for him in the school cafeteria. Mar’s a loner from the public housing project on the corner of Dave’s own gentrifying block, and he confounds Dave’s assumptions about black culture: He’s nerdy and neurotic, a Celtics obsessive whose favorite player is the gawky, white Larry Bird. Together, the two boys are able to resist the contradictory personas forced on them by the outside world, and before long, Mar’s coming over to Dave’s house every afternoon to watch vintage basketball tapes and plot their hustle to Harvard. But as Dave welcomes his new best friend into his world, he realizes how little he knows about Mar’s. Cracks gradually form in their relationship, and Dave starts to become aware of the breaks he’s been given–and that Mar has not.
Infectiously funny about the highs and lows of adolescence, and sharply honest in the face of injustice, Sam Graham-Felsen’s debut is a wildly original take on the struggle to rise in America.
By the time I got around to reading this book, I remembered very little of the synopsis (and to be fair, I think I was mostly attracted by the cover), so I went in pretty much blind. And, after a paragraph or two, I wasn’t sure I was going to like the writing style. But Green blew my expectations out of the water, and ended up being an absolutely brilliant book. It is about a boy struggling to find himself and understand what he calls “the force”, but is really the palpable effects of racism we encounter every day. I really appreciated how this book doesn’t shy away from addressing the racism that is still a part of our culture, and shines a light on how it affects children, even if we don’t mean or expect it to.
The main character, David, is really relatable. He struggles with the same things most (if not all) of us did going into our teen years. He is really trying to find his place in the world and balance his parents’ influence with the reality of today’s culture. It brought me right back to middle school, which normally I would loathe, but actually enjoyed. Plus, it’s set in Boston, and that’s always a bonus. There were so many things about this book that I usually dislike or felt like I shouldn’t enjoy, but it worked so well together, and, as a whole, it was just such a great read.
I think this is one of the best coming-of-age novels in a while. While it deals with middle-school issues, like making friends, etc., it reads very much like an adult novel. It is a brave, interesting portrait of something a lot of authors might be afraid to show, and it made for a very refreshing read. It’s one of those books that I can tell is going to stay with me for a long time.
★★★★☆ – This book was so close to five stars. It is a great novel, and I am so glad I read it. My only complaint is that the ending was a bit unsatisfying. Other than that, I truly loved Green. I can’t wait until it is released, because I am so curious to see what other people think of this book.
If you’re a fan of literary fiction, this is definitely one to keep an eye out for next month.
Green will be in bookstores starting January 2, 2018. You can preorder your copy on Amazon now.
To get the audiobook for free, use this link to sign up for a free trial of Audible and choose Green as one of your two free books.
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