Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Mock Printz: After Tupac and D Foster

Title: After Tupac and D Foster
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
ISBN: 9780399246548
Starred Review: PW

Plot: Set in Queens in the mid 90’s, After Tupac and D Foster is the story of three girls--“Three the Hard Way”. It’s a moment in time when the nameless narrator and her childhood best friend, Neeka, meet D Foster. A mysterious, slightly older girl, whose latest foster mother lets her “roam” so long as D meets curfew. A freedom the narrator and Neeka have never known under the watchful eyes of their mothers, restricted by the geography of the block they live on. The girls bond over their mutual love of Tupac Shakur and his music. D especially, feels a connection to him. Over a two year period D becomes a fixture on the block and in the girls’ lives just as Tupac is a fixture in the media and therefore their radar.

Thoughts: Reading this, D seems to sort of personify that subtle beginning of adolescent rebellion, at least for those of us who were younger teens still listening to our parents. What most readers could probably relate to is best friends feeling the trial of sharing each other with a new friend and the narrator’s pang of jealousy over JayJones’ interest in D. Or the feeling of being overwhelmed by responsibilities like Neeka helping care for her siblings. Each girl’s got something to make her stand out. Neeka’s got that strong voice, even if it borrows her mother’s words. The narrator is defined by her college-bound, bookish intelligence, which she proudly flaunts by dropping those vocab words. D could be relegated to ‘unforthcoming beautiful girl with a past who stirs things up’ but there’s depth to her and maturity. Even when she’s as gone as Tupac is to Neeka and the narrator…you get the feeling she’ll be alright. So the ending has that bitter-sweetness of gaining and losing a friend. I think everyone’s got a lost friend they wonder about when they hear a certain song or visit a certain place. As good as the book is-- I don’t know if it's got a wide audience with present day teens. If they will find it as easy to relate to, in the same way the girls did to Tupac. Time wise, I can remember being in my early teens in those mid 90’s. Cassettes, walkmans, bootlegs. But I didn’t actively listen to Tupac outside of what was on the radio and some of music mentioned was lost on me. Unless readers are already familiar with Tupac, I think that touchstone probably won’t work as well for them as it does for the narrator.

1 comment:

Carlie said...

I'm not a Tupac fan (my taste in music runs closer to Dean Winchester's than this novel's protagonist), but I did enjoy the way Woodson wove Tupac's influence and life with the girls'. A lot of events in our lives ARE landmarked by events and people, and Tupac's death (which is still in the media today) was a big one. The book reminded me a lot of the way I feel about Kurt Cobain; I still remember how and when I found out he died.

Jacqueline Woodson is like Scott Westerfeld: On her worst day, she's still better than half the writers out there on their best. But even though I found this an enjoyable title, I don't see it up there with the Printz winners and honor books of the past.