Saturday, January 04, 2014

He Said, She Said by Kwame Alexander

This novel is told through alternating narrators. The first narrator is Omar "T-Diddy" Smalls. He's the football MVP - all around hot stuff playa with the ego to match. The second narrator is Claudia Clarke who is headed for Harvard and not the least bit interested in someone like Omar. When he sees her at a party "looking like Beyonce" he gets it in his head that he has to have her. After everyone tells him she won't give him the time of day, he makes a bet that he'll walk away with her panties. Of course she wants nothing to do with him, not when she has far more important things to deal with, like the fact that teen pregnancy is running the school and the school board is laying off teachers, closing the school library, and cutting their arts fund. T-Diddy gets it in his head that he can woo Claudia by picking up her cause and leads the school in a silent protest against that school board's actions. With him leading, the whole school gets involved and Claudia begins to think he might not be as bad as she thought. At the same time, T-Diddy starts to fall for her in ways he's never felt for girls before. However, when his past starts to catch up with him, his relationship with Claudia is put to the test.

This novel is told through African-American characters, so at times the dialect takes getting used to (I'm not entirely sure what "ish" means or "woadie," but it doesn't detract from the story). For the vast majority of the novel I did not like Omar "T-Diddy." Even when he started to change and lose the ego, his attitude and motivation rubbed me the wrong way. Even Claudia seemed to easily swayed by his ways for being such a smart woman. Maybe, though, it was just a cultural thing that I couldn't connect with. Despite my dislike for the characters, this is a powerful story about standing up for what you think is right and using the civil rights history to change the world today. It is about changing your ways, and how one person can make you a better person. This book has the power to be inspirational.

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