The skin I'm in
by Sharon Flake
School Library Journal
Gr 6-8-Seventh-grader Maleeka Madison is miserable when a new teacher comes to her depressed inner-city school. Miss Saunders evidently is rich, self-assured in spite of the white birthmark across her black skin, and prone to getting into kids' faces about both their behavior and their academic potential. Black and bright, Maleeka is so swamped by her immediate problems that Miss Saunders's attentions nearly capsize her stability. The girl's mother has just emerged from a two-year period of intense mourning for her dead husband, during which time her daughter has provided her with physical and moral support with no adult assistance. At school, Maleeka endures mean-spirited teasing about the darkness of her skin and her unstylish clothing. She seeks solace in writing an extended creative piece, at Miss Saunders's instigation, and also in the company of a powerful clique of nasty girls. Told in Maleeka's voice, this first novel bristles with attitude that is both genuine and alarming. The young teen understands too well that her brains aren't as valuable as the social standing that she doesn't have. In the end, she is able to respond positively to Miss Saunders; she also becomes socially anointed through the affections of the most popular boy in the school. This message rings true in spite of the fact that Maleeka's salvation isn't exactly politically correct. Young teens will appreciate Flake's authenticity and perhaps realize how to learn from Maleeka's struggle for security and self-assurance.-Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA
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