Sharon G. Flake tops the list of authors my students clamor to read. Who Am I Without Him?, her short stories from the point of view of girls, ranks among the most borrowed (and most "permanently borrowed") in our library. I finally got to read You Don't Even Know Me, Flake's companion from the male perspective.
Flake is unmatched when it comes to writing in the voice of unborn teens, probably from her past as a youth counselor. The short stories in this collection are captivating, and I'd like to read almost all of them as full-length novels. They tackle a plethora of issues, including teen pregnancy (and marriage), sexual abuse, HIV, difficult family relationships, and lots of growing up.
My favorite short story, "The Hood", chronicles a sweltering summer day in North Philly. I was particularly taken with a troubled character named Elliott. He is described as having sad eyes and proclaims that everything gets blamed on him. His uncontrollable desire to set things on fire foreshadows that there will be a lot more blame for him in the future. Even when I couldn't relate to the protagonists of all the stories, I was eager to learn more and I know it would be the same for my students.
In my opinion, the poems in this book were just filler. While some were thought provoking, most added nothing to my reading experience. For example, the entire text of "Sixteen" is "My ride/My boys/My game/My girl/My world." I would have preferred that those pages were used for another amazing short story. Now I've officially read all of Sharon G. Flake's books and can join the rest of the legions waiting for her next work.