With an incarcerated father and an estranged drug-addicted mother, Shanequa’s dreams of higher education feel like a fantasy. When Shanequa gets the chance to attend a prestigious private prep school, she feels like her dreams might become reality. Shanequa finds it easier to lie to her new friends than tell them the truth about her family. When her lies are found out, and Shanequa strikes back in blind rage, her path changes forever.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Drugs, Racism, Underage drinking, Underage smoking
Booklist (October 1, 2018 (Online))
Grades 9-12. Using realistic, raw, and powerful poetry that will reach the reluctant reader, Taylor’s novel tells a difficult story entirely through the poems of its young protagonist. Shanequa starts at a prestigious private prep school and, ashamed of her drug-addict mother, omits the truth about her family situation to the students there. When her new best friend Ashley proves false and provokes her, Shanequa’s punch to Ashley’s nose sets Shanequa on the same path as her incarcerated father. But she is smart and strong, as we see through her writing, and with the help of her family and an understanding teacher, she sets herself right. This is one of six titles in West 44’s YA Verse series, which effectively uses poetry to tell a story simply and with no frills, and yet ensure honesty flows through every word. Shanequa’s teacher Miss Precious says it best: “Shanequa’s poems have / meaning, strength, and power. / Writing honestly about the / painfully difficult / is her gift.” A beautiful, empowering choice for a wide spectrum of readers.
Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2018)
America’s systemic race and class problems are viscerally rendered in this evocative account of a black teenage girl’s coming-of-age in a novel for reluctant readers. Shanequa’s life is one of constant heartbreaking struggle. Her father is in jail for second-degree murder, and her mother, depressed by the loss of her husband, succumbs to drugs and abandons her children, leaving Shanequa and her younger sister, LaKecia, to be raised by their grandmother. Yearning for a better life, Shanequa works her way into the prestigious Bidwell Academy for Girls, where she must strive to move forward while dealing with the ghosts from her past. Told in a series of short narrative poems, Shanequa’s struggles, dreams, and fears come alive on the page as she grapples with shame at being poor in a rich world and the indignities of being black and exoticized in a predominantly white educational environment. Taylor (Street Pharmacist, 2016, etc.) nicely employs the story’s framework to turn the protagonist into a shrewdly observational character with a unique voice by giving the readers small glimpses into her thoughts. Descriptions of the two sisters reveal that the darker-skinned Shanequa feels ugly in comparison to her lighter sibling, and casual discussion of various students’ cellphones underscores the class disparities at her school. A haunting and honest depiction of adversity and triumph that reveals America’s continuing struggle to give equal opportunities to all. (Verse novel. 15-18)
About the Author
Annette Daniels Taylor, an award winning playwright, poet and artist-filmmaker. Her debut YA novel, Dreams on Fire (October 2018) with West 44 books is an poetic urban teenage journey written in verse.The author of two poetry chapbooks, Street Pharmacist; and Hush now, Annette’s work explores identity, class, memory, place, and public history. Her drama A Little Bit of Paradise, available at Amazon.com, won the 2008 Artie Award for Outstanding New Play. Daniels Taylor is also a 2018-19 New York State Public Humanities fellow, a 2016-18 Arthur A. Schomburg fellow with the Department of Media Study, SUNY University at Buffalo and a Pink Door Poetry alum.
Her website is www.annettedanielstaylor.com
Around the Web
Dreams on Fire on Amazon
Dreams on Fire on Barnes and Noble
Dreams on Fire on Goodreads
Dreams on Fire Publisher Page