Emako Blue is a gorgeous teen with a good heart and an amazing gift for singing. Unfortunately, this is not enough in her South Central neighborhood. The novel begins with Emako's funeral and then the various friends in her life flashback to what led to the sad event.
This is a novel that I know my students would love; they are wild for any urban tragedy, and if one of the main characters is aspirational, it's even better. I am always happy to add a book to the library if I know it is going to get shared through word of mouth. I have a great reputation when it comes to recommending books, but there is nothing better than when the students are handing them to each other.
Still, I am conflicted by the writing in Emako Blue. While I appreciate that the "tough guys" in Brenda Woods' novel show their softer side, I don't think the characters are fully fleshed out. Emako is whatever the narrator needs her to be, Monterey is the everygirl, Savannah is the bad girl who's hurting inside, Eddie is the boy with a future, and Jamal is the player who goes good for Emako. There isn't much complexity in how they relate to each other. I also feel like there were so many conversations that just consisted of greetings: "hey" and "hi". This is pretty realistic with adolescents, but is a truth that better YA authors don't include.
I won't be pressing this novel on students, but I won't need to. They'll do it themselves.