Black Sheep by Naima B Robert
|Black Sheep by Naima B Robert|
|Reviewer: Robert James|
|Summary: Stunning dual narrative with two lead characters who have great voices and excellent chemistry between them. Huge recommendation. Naima B Robert popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 272||Date: January 2013|
|Publisher: Frances Lincoln Children's Books|
|External links: Author's website|
Sixteen-year-old Dwayne is a badman – a wannabe rapper who hangs around with other gang members and doesn't see any future in education. Misha, high-flying university-bound daughter of a local councillor, should have nothing in common with him, but when they meet there's an undeniable attraction, and they start to date in secret. Misha makes Dwayne want to be a better person – but with his old life tempting him back at every turn, can he make a break from it, or will he be drawn back in?
I struggled with the first 20 or 30 pages of this one as Dwayne's voice, and the street slang he uses, was completely different from anything I've read recently. Once I got familiar with the way he spoke, though, I was entranced by both his and Misha's narration – it's a beautifully written book. Dwayne's words, in particular, dance and jive and shimmy, while Misha has a wonderfully strong and clear voice. They're a pair of stunning characters with really strong chemistry between them, and I couldn't wait to see how their relationship would develop.
In addition, there's a strong portrayal of Islam, as a former member of Dwayne's gang finds comfort in the faith and Dwayne starts to become drawn to it himself, which was very well-handled and interesting to read.
There are also some excellent supporting characters, particularly Misha's mum, a local councillor who's moved away from the area she considers to be a black 'ghetto' and isn't exactly keen to see her daughter getting friendly with a boy who appears to have few prospects, and one teacher who's the only one who does see the potential in Dwayne.
Despite the great characters, the plot is the best thing about the book – it's reminiscent of Romeo and Juliet, as you can probably tell from the opening paragraph, but it's also original, full of twists and turns, and hugely unpredictable, with one of the strongest endings I've read for ages.
Highly recommended, and I'm going to try and track down Na'ima Robert's previous books!
For other stunning dual narratives. there are several excellent recent YA contemporaries to choose from. I'd suggest Skin Deep by Laura Jarratt as the pick of the bunch, closely followed by Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley and Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry.
Naima B Robert was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.
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