I would like to start by saying that this book is good, and I would definitely recommend it to young adult readers. It was an easy read, and the story is meaningful in many ways. That being said, I didn't think it was excellent, and I think there are better books out there with similar themes.
For some reason, I couldn't get into this book like I wanted. I'm not sure if it was the style of writing or the plot, but it wasn't emotionally invested in the story. I think one reason was that I didn't relate to the main character Maleeka. Now you may be thinking of course you can't relate, you are a white, middle-class college kid, and Maleeka is an African-American, underprivileged 7th grader. But in the books that I love and truly enjoy, even if the character is completely different than me, I find some way to relate to the character through their voice in the novel or in the way that the author develops their character. I didn't feel this way about Maleeka. I felt like an outsider reading about her story. Also, the plot was a little too predictable.
As a teacher, I respond to this book more positively. Maleeka could be any youth, black or white, throughout the country that is struggling with their self-image and self-worth. As the short novel progresses, Maleeka becomes more comfortable in her skin, therefore becoming more comfortable with who she is as a person. She begins to stand up for herself to the bullies and accept the attention from a boy. As predictable as it was, it was inspirational nevertheless. I think many young girls would relate to Maleeka's story and it even if the novel can't change how they feel about themselves, at least they will realize that the feelings that they are having are not strange, and that others are experiencing the same thing.
This novel has a great example of a strong, influential teacher Miss Sauders. Miss Sauders, as tough as she acts, is a kind and caring teacher who helps Maleeka to realize she is smart and beautiful. She starts Maleeka on a special writing project that opens up a whole new world to Maleeka. Not only does she discover she likes writing, but she also discovers she is very good at it. Miss Sauders' role in Maleeka's life is exactly what we strive to be as teachers, a positive role model and advocate to encourage success for all students.
Overall, this book was good, but it wasn't my favorite because I never felt emotionally attached to the story. But I will definitely include it in my classroom library and recommend it to students who I feel could relate to Maleeka.