Neva is a 12-year-old girl in West Philadelphia who is having a tough summer. Her parents are touring musicians in Europe, and she’s been left behind with her strict grandparents. Her body is going through changes, and not only is she a bit insecure, her older brother Clay caught her looking at herself in the mirror and burst out laughing. Her best friend Jamila is leaving for a family trip to Ghana, leaving her a bit jealous. On top of this, Neva realizes that Clay has been sneaking out to social justice meetings when he’s told his grandparents he’s working at the swim club. I enjoyed so much about this book, from Neva’s love of words and her dictionary to the themes of not making assumptions about people and how there’s lots of ways to help the community. The colorful details about Philadelphia and Ghanaian-American culture are particularly enjoyable – I’d love to find a place in Milwaukee to buy water ice. But mostly I loved Neva and her family, special people in a very special middle-grade novel.— Daniel Goldin
Being twelve isn't easy, especially when you're Neva Beane. Neva feels beautiful wearing her new bra, but she's confused by how others respond to the changes taking place in and out of her body. Her best friend, Jamila, is getting all the attention. Her brother, Clayton, is becoming an activist. And Mom and Dad are gone working-again. Grandad and Nana aren't much help, either, with their old ways and backward views.
Neva struggles to find her place in a world that, like the political landscape that's always shifting around her in her West Philadelphia neighborhood, is uncertain, at times scary, but most always, filled with unanswered questions. Neva is left with what comforts her most-words and their meanings, which she chronicles herself. While the pages of her beloved dictionary reveal truths about what's happening around her, Neva must discover the best way to define herself. In this wholly original story by the author of the NAACP Image Award nominee Riding Chance, a girl finds her voice in unexpected ways.
About the Author
50 Best Books for Teens by the New York Public Library
"[A] stirring look into the life of a young man finding passion, inspiration, and direction."-Publishers Weekly
"A worthwhile first outing."-Kirkus Reviews
"A heartwarming tale of redemption and second chances, as seen through the eyes of a teen surrounded by love, and determined to press on, no matter what." -Sharon G. Flake, Coretta Scott King Award-winning author of The Skin I'm In