All You Have to Do

Penguin/Kokila. Aug. 2023. 432p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780593619049.
Gr 8 Up–A compelling portrait of the intersectionality of race, class, and intergenerational change that features two Black young adults, Kevin and Gibran, living through two different time periods. Because of their grandparents’ and parents’ upward mobility, both young men are students at prestigious, predominantly white schools. Kevin, a student at Columbia University, tells his story of growing up in a predominantly white suburb in the 1950s and early 1960s as well as his experience at the Black student–led sit-in at Columbia in April 1968. Gibran, Kevin’s nephew, is a student at the prestigious White Oaks preparatory school and is driven to organize a group to attend the 1995 Million Man March in Washington, D.C. Readers will be intrigued by a family mystery that Gibran works to unravel and the nuanced relationship between uncle and nephew. Told in short chapters that alternate perspectives, the novel is written in one- to two-page fast-moving episodes, especially important in a book that clocks in at 400+ pages. Gibran’s rap lyrics and drawings bring a welcome change of pace. This debut novel is meticulously researched and based on real events and people. Allen includes a list of acronyms and institutions as well as a note that shares her personal connection to these stories and how she made them emotionally realistic.
VERDICT An important addition to the canon of YA historical fiction and especially recommended for readers who are invested in the history of racism and the struggle for freedom.

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