Wednesday, February 01, 2006

From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun

Book: From the Notebooks of Melanin Sun
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Published: 1995

Almost-fourteen-year-old Melanin Sun thinks he's got it pretty good. He's got his mama, his homeboys Sean and Raphael, and his notebooks. Sure, nothing's perfect--for one thing, he can't seem to get up the courage to talk to gorgeous Angie from down the block. But things are good.

Which just goes to show how dangerous complacency can be.

When his mama falls in love with a white woman, Mel suddenly finds that everything he's always depended on is as about as dependable as a pogo stick in an earthquake. His mama, always the most important person in his life, now feels like a stranger. He has to lie to Sean and Raphael, and even his budding relationship with Angie is haunted by deception. The only real thing he's got left is the notebooks where he writes down everything he can't say. Using a mixture of first-person narration and excerpts from Mel's notebooks, Wilson chronicles his rocky road through the first great challenge in his young life.

This is a tiny gem of a book, thoughtful and uncompromising, offering no easy answers or pat solutions. Woodson walks a delicate line in her portrayal of Mel, whose reaction to his mother's new love is furious and virulent. Part stepchild-resentment, part homophobia, and part racism, it's completely believable. But the sensitive, loving boy we first got to know re-emerges by the end of the book, as Mel comes to the understanding that no matter what changes, love endures.

Reluctant-reader note: it's a very quick read.

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