Wednesday, February 26, 2020
33. New Kid
First sentence: This is how I feel every single day of my life, like I’m falling without a parachute.
Premise/plot: Jordan Banks is starting seventh grade in a new private school whether he wants to or not. His mom insists that this is the best for him and will teach him lessons he’ll need to succeed and thrive in life as an adult. His dad is less certain that this school—made up of 98 to 99% white students—is the only place to learn those lessons. Jordan finds himself one of two African American students in his classes. Drew is the other. One teacher—maybe even more—(and it’s their home room teacher at that) rarely calls them by the right name.
Overall, there are definitely some universal themes going on in this coming of age graphic novel. Jordan is an artist and not an athlete. He’s brand new to the school, some of these kids have known each other since kindergarten. He doesn’t hate every single thing about his new school, his classes, his classmates. But he doesn’t love everything either. He makes a few friends, but he’s not super popular and comfortable with the crowd. He is adjusting but not overnight. He wants to be seen, heard, understood, liked for who he is. Very universal that. Even if you’re not in middle school.
Race is kept front and center for the most part. This book examines what it is like to be black in a mostly only white private school.
My thoughts: It is the Newbery Medal for 2020. I am glad I read it. I would not have sought it out on my own because graphic novels aren’t usually my thing. But I liked it, definitely liked it.
One scene that stuck out to me—resonated with me—was the one where his homeroom teacher finds his art journal, reads it without permission, confronts and judges him. I hate that she is accusing him of being angry, having a bad attitude and not trying hard enough to adjust or fit in at the school. First she had no business to read his private journal—art or not. Second she took his accounts and experiences and negates his feelings, experiences, etc. and blames him for not being happy happy joyful grateful for being there. As if he would prefer to be teased and doesn’t want to be friends with anyone.
© 2020 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews