Author: Christopher Grant
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House, Inc.
Published: December 2010
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars = Excellent
Ages: 12 and up
Teenie, the debut novel of Christopher Grant, portrays the trials and tribulations of Martine, “Teenie” for short, a high school freshman living in Brooklyn. She is a good student, loves her parents and is surprisingly naïve, considering the street-smarts of her best friend, Charise—or, at least, the street-smarts Charise wants the world to believe she has. Teenie hopes to get a scholarship to spend time studying in Spain, and experience a bit of the world beyond the streets of Brooklyn. But, when she falls head-over-heels for the star of the basketball team, she gets more than she bargained for, and her entire life seems to unravel, one thread at a time.
When I first received this book, I was instantly interested for two reasons: (1) I love reading about cultures and situations of which I am completely unfamiliar and (2) I was intrigued by the fact that this book, written from the point of view of a teenage girl, was authored by a male.
As I said, this culture is one with which I am completely unfamiliar; I am not and never have been a young black girl in Brooklyn. I’ve never been to Brooklyn, period, and simply know nothing first-hand about that part of the nation. But, reading Grant’s characters, dialogues, situations, etc., I felt like I knew what it was like to be a part of the city. I could see the streets, hear the trains, even toss around the language of the Caribbean population of Brooklyn (Teenie’s father’s heritage). In other words, the book had the feel of authenticity about it—Grant, born and raised in Brooklyn, and currently working in Harlem as an equities trader, knew what he was writing about, and was able to put that knowledge to work for his novel (no doubt the fact that he wrote the novel while riding on the NYC subway helped).
More impressive, however, is how Grant is able to bring that same authenticity to the female voice of Teenie. “Christopher was inspired to write from a female persepective after reading an article about publishers looking for men writing as women,” the dust jacket of Teenie reads. “I grew up in a household that was dominated by strong female influences. My mother and three aunts, each with their own unique temperament and assortment of quirks, had a profound effect on me as a child. After reading that article, I figured who better than me to write that kind of story?”
Overall, I must say I agree with him.
Readers can get their copy of Teenie at one of the 800+ bookstores in Georgia.
Mechele R. Dillard is also the National Young Adult Fiction Examiner. Follow her by subscribing at the top of this page for free email updates, or visit her on Twitter and Facebook.