THE PLOT: American Street by Ibi Zoboi is about sixteen-year-old Fabiola who immigrates from Haiti to the U.S. with her mother. After her mother is stopped at the airport, Fabiola lives with her cousins in Detroit while trying to get her mum released from an ICE detention centre. Fabiola tries to cling onto her Haitian culture through voudou rituals whilst getting to grips with the gritty realism of being young, black and poor in the West Side of Detroit. Just as she finds her footing, she is given a chance to free her mother but it comes at the expense of her cousins, their friends, and her budding love interest.
RATING: A beautiful coming of age story, this novel gets four and a half stars. It’s classic YA with its teenage protagonist learning to navigate a new school in a new country, building friendships and falling in love. Yet it’s refreshingly original with a completely distinct voice blending Haitian and American culture, creating a lyrical edge. The subject matter is heart wrenching yet there’s dashes of humour. All together this melting pot makes for a must-read book.
GOOD BITS: Every character in this novel is well rounded. I believe the author knows each character’s backstory and detailed motivations for their actions. Firstly, Fabiola’s cousins are realistic, flawed and funny in equal measure. I absolutely fell in love with them and their dynamic. Secondly, I enjoyed how the smaller characters brought some additional themes into the novel, such as Matant Jo’s pain/pills/depression and Donna’s abusive boyfriend.
NOT GOOD BITS: I had to take off half a star because of the ending. There’s a great twist but instead of ending in revelation and resolution, we get an additional major event. This additional event is never realistically resolved so it leaves a question mark at the end of the book. I think there could’ve been a simpler way to finish the book, which would’ve tied up loose ends.
OVERALL: Calling all lovers of Young Adult Fiction – here is a book for you! If you liked The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, then American Street by Ibi Zoboi should be on your bookshelf. There’s a lot of themes in this novel, but it flows nicely due to the clear story goal (Fabiola’s quest to save her mother). From itchy weaves to thanksgiving turkey stew, it’s a relatable novel with a lot of heart.