Home Girl by Alex Wheatle

9781617757532_a1d94Originally published in School Library Journal, July 1, 2019.

Gr 7 & Up: Fourteen-year-old Naomi Brisset, who is white, has been passed around the UK foster care system with no real sense of home. Since her mother died four years ago, Naomi, took care of her alcoholic father, assuming many parenting roles. As such, she thinks of herself as an adult, refusing to ask for help when she needs it. That changes when she meets a black family, the Goldings, for a temporary placement by her overworked but patient social worker, Louise. Unlike with past foster parents, the Goldings are genuine, lessening Naomi’s instinct to run away, and she develops a soft spot for the Golding children, Sharyna and Pablo. The problem is that UK policy frowns upon placing Caucasians in black homes, and that Naomi’s friends from her previous group home, Kim and Nats, continue to be a poor influence on her decisions. Then a tragic accident forces Louise to find a new arrangement for Naomi’s future. Naomi’s tough exterior and brash attitude portray an authentic character in an unfortunate, yet accurate picture of modern-day foster care in the UK. The plot is a bit slow and the dialogue, though fitting to Naomi’s life situation, can be hard to understand at times. The ending is neither predictable nor sugar-coated, leaving readers rooting for the unique, spunky heroine. VERDICT Recommended for additional purchase to complement a young adult realistic fiction section.

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