Zoboi, Ibi. (2017). American Street. New York, NY: Balzer + Bray. 324 pages.
Audience – Grades 10+
Kayla Hlad (she/her)
MLIS Student, Kent State University iSchool
Fabiola was born in America but has lived most of her life in Haiti with her mother. At the start of American Street, they attempt to return to the US and reestablish themselves with Fabiola’s family on the corner of Joy Road and American Street, only for her mother to be detained at the airport. Understandably, when a detective offers to help Fabiola see her mother again in exchange for information about a drug dealer, the offer is appealing. But as she bonds with her cousins, her aunt, and her new boyfriend, things become more complicated. Guided by her prayers and her traditional vudu practices, Fabiola creates her path, but it’s not a painless journey.
Ibi Zoboi’s American Street is a powerful Own Voice novel that will draw in teens who are interested in social issues of immigration, racism, police violence, and economic inequality. Fabiola is an extremely likable and relatable character, and readers will love to root for her. Fabiola offers a much-needed representation that’s rare in young adult literature and empowering to so many teens. The cover is stunning and appealing to teens, embracing Fabiola’s ethnicity while also creating an aesthetically pleasing and artistic impression to match the tone of the novel. This story is full of twists and turns, yet depicts realistically tragic events that are intertwined with intriguing magic realism. The author’s imagery, metaphors, and symbolism are beyond beautiful and skillfully add in social commentary that is important to teens today. This is a spectacular novel for those who love The Hate U Give and teens who are yearning for realistic and diverse portrayals of American teen life.