With her street smarts and dance floor heart, Afro-Latina Beatriz will have you rooting for her from page one!
When we meet Beatriz, she’s simultaneously looking at a “wishmaker flower” and dodging bullets. That’s pretty much her life. Hope and violence entwined.
Beatriz is anchored by love for family, inspired by dancers on TV’s Fame, and stirred by music, but she’s also working out how to keep the cash flowing in the gang she joined at age twelve and how to follow in the footsteps of her big brother, who led the gang with distinction.
Her inner battle heats up when a clean-cut, book-smart kid flashes her a smile. ‘Hood-savy, she is; school-loving, she’s not. And yet these two young people have some things in common. Both have lived through adversity and violence. Both have a chance to make something of themselves. Both love to bust a move to the music of the day, which is the 1980’s.
In a world where her brother has been shot and her mother is slipping into a grief-inspired stupor, Beatriz finds the idea of romance both alluring and dangerous. How can she reveal her gang life to Mr. Straight-up Good Guy? How can she get involved with a guy who may have ties to the enemy? When they study together, Beatriz can be herself, but her ‘hood is part of herself, too. The fact is, she’s living in two worlds that must eventually collide.
With a dance mentor and contest that could put her in touch with her TV role model, Beatriz seems poised to break out of her old life, but her gang says, “Blood in, blood out.” Besides that, threats arrive in cryptic messages. Unfortunately, the past never stays past. It breaks into the present and threatens everything Beatriz is becoming. To become her best self, she’ll have to risk losing the only life she’s ever known.
With vivid scenes and page-turner tension, Tami Charles recreates the New Jersey of the 1980’s. She depicts the drug world without flinching, but also humanizes the people caught in its grip. The challenges of immigration, poverty, and gang violence are faced bravely by the characters here, and we find ourselves unable to judge anyone in a simplistic way. This is the strength of fiction, and Charles’s talent of portraying psychological depth leads the reader away from preconceived notions and toward an appreciation of the human struggle.
Though readers of Like Vanessa will recognize feisty Beatriz, this book stands alone. It stands, also, as a testament to the dignity and resilience so alive in this character. Treat yourself to this story of hard-won insights and embraced potential. The ending will make you want to dance!
By Rebecca Balcárcel
Las Musas Speak
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