American Street — teen review

review by Madison Comick, age 15

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

I have just read the book that will cause you to smile, frown, laugh, cry, -laugh and cry at the same time- scream, lay down and wonder what exactly you’re doing in life, listen to I’m Not Okay (I Promise) by My Chemical Romance, and in the end attempt to a create a story- or song or poem- as powerful as this one- and fail. You will fail because you are not Ibi Zoboi and the story you’re creating is not American Street.

Extremely beautiful and touching, American Street tells the events that occur in Detroit’s West Side, when Fabiola Toussaint leaves Port-au-Prince, Haiti, to live with her loud, bad mouthed, inappropriately humored, and terribly hilarious American cousins and Matant Jo. Awkward and foreign, she expects to navigate Detroit with her mother, but government officials detain her and send her to a detention center in New Jersey. Fabiola ends up going to school with her family and meeting her future boyfriend.

This is not your normal story about a foreigner. It’s funny and sad at the exact same time, and the author also adds a mix of faith and religion to combine with the modern American setting. Fabiola is caught up in certain situations and a new romance with the bad guy’s best friend (I know. EXCITING), but she shows that faith in your beliefs and bravery and love for others will get you through your struggles and hardships. She teaches you to stand up for who you love, even if they’re confused. And if you betray one person, you betray a whole line of other people. These teachings make this story a constant page turner- but not without the help of every character.

Ibi tells the story from the point of view of Fabiola, but with certain interruptions to tell the stories of every character, which give a certain perspective of the reader towards each person. She gave the character a chance to be in the spotlight, to become more of a human being and less secondary. Fabiola is the foreigner, but it’s not all about her. It’s about everyone around her. Ibi developed the character very well and made them unlike any other person. Everyone had a part, and no one was a background character. Yes, they seem normal and irrelevant at first-even small parts about them (Princess’s bumble bee hat and how it makes her look like a boy, for example, turns into a much bigger part). That is, until you turn the next page. The insane man seated on the bucket outside their house was Papa Legba, who disappeared and appeared like smoke, always armed with a new song to learn a lesson from. The two boys mentioned were important factors in both Fabiola’s and her family’s lives. And the normal girls minding their own business or bullying Fabiola weren’t just friends, or acquaintances, or bullies, or lovers. They were examples of every other person in Detroit.

I could keep going on about this story. American Street was beautiful and powerful and full of surprises and twisting events. One minute I was laughing and the next minute, I was about to cry. It’s so beautifully told. If I could give it 10 stars I would, but I can only go up to 5. This is the story that you “save a little bit of tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day after that.”


Find this book in our catalog: American Street

Call Number: YA FIC ZOBOI,I

324 pages

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Teens blog about a variety of topics: book reviews, event recaps, book lists, poems, stories, interviews, and opinions. If you are a teen and interested in writing for us, please email Jane Gov at jgov@cityofpasadena.net. You must live in Pasadena and/or attend our events.

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