Summary: On the corner of American Street and Joy Road, Fabiola Toussaint thought she would finally find une belle vie—a good life. But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s west side; a new school; and a surprising romance, all on her own. Just as she finds her footing in this strange new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and Fabiola must learn that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?
Review: It can be difficult to play by the rules when you don’t know what those rules are. So finding herself in Detroit without her mother and with family she only knows from phone calls is a bit overwhelming for Fabiola. Readers of a certain age will remember when we first met Omar Tyree’s Flyy Girl, Tracy Ellison, over 20 years ago. Fabiola’s Detroit cousins, known as the Three Bs (brains, beauty & brawn), Chantal, Donna and Princess are Tracy meets the Gross sisters from the Proud Family, hardened in ways that Fabiola isn’t. Is it that Fabiola is rooted in Haitian tradition and culture, while her cousins have become Americanized? She’s not preoccupied with trendy clothes and weaves or getting her nails done. Her simple wish is to be reunited with her mother, whatever the cost.
I love that even as Fabi begins to adjust to life in Detroit and learns about the family business, she never loses who she is. On the outside, she does dress differently, goes out with friends, and keeps a few secrets, but she still loves her natural hair, she still says her prayers at night, she’s still a bit naive and she can still differentiate between wrong and right. She’s a typical teenager, but has stronger convictions and moral codes than most. Ibi Zoboi never lets her lose that throughout the story.
With a foot firmly planted in both the crossroads of Haiti and Detroit and American Street and Joy Road, she faces difficult decisions when it comes to her cousins, her aunt, her mother and her new love. Fabi sees Papa Legba in the homeless man on the corner where others see a bum. It’s her deep faith in Vodou that allows her to see him for who he is and, because of her faith, Zoboi is able to bring a bit of mystical, supernaturalness to the story. It's this faith that keeps Fabi believing that one day she'll be reunited with her mother.
Now let's talk about this gorgeous book cover! It caught my eye while I was browsing the publisher catalog and I immediately knew that I wanted to read the story before I even knew what it was about. Publishers have to know that covers mean things and can make all the difference when it comes to a reader picking up a book. Also, it's important to note that though the main character is in high school, this is a great read for all ages. Ibi Zoboi has such a way with words and characters that I’m looking forward to whatever she puts out next.
Published: February 2017
Disclaimer: Copy of book received from publisher, opinions are my own.
Amazon | B & N | Book Depository | IndieBound