Set in the modern-day suburbs of Las Vegas, a young girl finds herself caught between two worlds. She is drawn to the popular new boy—the only other black student in the school—but also loyal to her BFF, a geeky boy whose social status, like hers, is bottom-rung, and with whom she has shared an incomparable friendship. Author Kekla Magoon deftly navigates the muddy waters of racial and cultural identities in this contemporary exploration of one girl’s attempt to find herself.
Magoon (The Rock and the River) offers a sensitive and articulate portrayal of a pair of middle-school outsiders. Sixth-graders Zachary ("Z") and Ella are longtime friends, loners who have bonded over the loss of their fathers. On their own, they refer to themselves as Sir Zachariah and Lady Eleanor, using the trappings of royalty and chivalry to steel themselves against real-life bullies at their all-white school, who call biracial Ella "Camo-Face" and consider Z, who is extremely immersed in his fantasies, to be "reality-challenged." When another black student, Bailey, begins attending their school and shows an interest in Ella, it challenges her friendship with Z, casting a new light on his behavior and vulnerability. Ella's relationships with her mother, grandmother, Bailey, and Z are especially well rendered; the decisions Ella must make regarding Z are all the more poignant as she herself has seen a close friend become an ex-friend in recent years. This poetic and nuanced story addresses the courage it takes to truly know and support someone, as well as the difficult choices that come with growing up. Ages 8 14.