Book review

The Skin I'm In by Sharon G Flake (1998)

Bullying at school can be a terrible experience, and yet sometimes it can be quite hard to see the reason for the bullying. Why, for instance, would a black boy tease a black girl about being black?

John-John McIntyre is the smallest seventh grader in the world. Even fifth graders can see over his head. Sometimes I have a hard time believing he and me are both thirteen. He's my color, but since second grade he's been teasing me about being too black.

Well, I can think of one reason why John-John might be teasing Maleeka. Perhaps he's jealous because Maleeka is tall and, even if she doesn't quite realise it yet, she's rather gorgeous too. And perhaps he's also jealous of her relationship with Caleb:

He stared at me half the year. I thought he saw what everybody else saw. Skinny, poor, black Maleeka. But Caleb saw something different. He said I was pretty. Said he liked my eyes and sweet cocoa brown skin. He wrote me poems and letters. He put spearmint gum inside. Walked me to class. Gave me a ring. I ain't told Momma.

So when John-John ruined it for Maleeka and Caleb, Maleeka was left with no-one on her side. Maybe it wasn't a very clever move, but Maleeka teamed up with Charlese and her gang, out of self-protection. That didn't improve things much, but it was better than nothing. Until Charlese decided to see how far she could push Maleeka, too ...

This is one of those stories where you can see things going from bad to worse in front of your very eyes. Maleeka is in a difficult situation and there doesn't seem to be anyone she can turn to. She makes some pretty bad mistakes before she finally realises that the new English teacher, the outspoken Miss Saunders, really is on her side.

A hopeful story. I think you will enjoy it.

What can I read next?

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