This is one that happened to catch my eye when I was wandering through the YA section of my library. I hadn’t heard anything about it, so I didn’t have much in the way of expectations.
It’s about a teenaged girl named Fabiola trying to move from Haiti to America with her mother and is apparently based on the real-life experiences of the author, Ibi Zoboi (though Zoboi was much younger when she immigrated).
Fabiola was born in America the last time her mother visited, so when they land in New York, Fabiola gets to keep going on to Detroit, where her aunt and three cousins live. But her mother overstayed her visa in order to make sure Fabiola was born on American soil, and because of that, she gets detained and sent back to Haiti.
Fabiola moves in with her aunt and cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Pri, who are determined to show her the ropes and make sure she doesn’t embarrass them. As if being a teenager isn’t confusing enough on its own, Fabiola has to try to navigate a new culture, new school, new social circle, and try to get reunited with her mother.
Turns out Donna’s boyfriend is a drug dealer and it doesn’t take long for an investigator to find Fabiola and convince her to rat on Donna’s boyfriend in exchange for her mother.
My favorite part of this book is the fact that Fabiola is clearly no one’s idiot. Haiti has gangs, guns, drugs, and plenty of violence, so Fabiola knows exactly what she’s getting herself into. She’s aware of the danger, but she’ll do anything to save her mother. She prays to her gods (including one she’s pretty sure has taken the form of an old man who likes to hang out on their street and sing songs that seem strangely pertinent to the challenges she’s facing at the time) to give her their strength to do what needs to be done. Her cousins call it voodoo and Fabiola has to correct them.
Things get complicated when Fabiola starts to fall for Kasim, who’s like a brother to Donna’s violent, cheating, drug-dealing boyfriend. Kasim seems nice enough, but Fabiola is aware that the company we keep says volumes about us, so she’s wary of Kasim at first and starts to distance herself from him as she tries harder to get enough evidence to put his best friend in jail.
This book is heartbreaking on so many levels, not just because of the ending, but because of the different perspectives that get woven into the story. The book is mainly told from Fabiola’s perspective, but there’s a short chapter from Donna’s perspective, one from her boyfriend, and even one from the perspective of the house they’re living in, telling about the families it has seen living in it from Detroit’s rise to prominence to its fall into poverty and violence.
I highly recommend this book. It is powerful and exceptionally well written.
What did you guys read this week? Anything else you picked up randomly and ended up enjoying way more than you were expecting?