Tutored by Allison Whittenberg ARC
Delacorte Press/Random House
Release Date: Today (Dec. 14, 2010)
IQ "Color was the easy part. Black was also a culture. Wendy doubted that these [white girls comparing tans] girls ever had black-eyed peas to welcome in the New Year or danced the pop and lock at a family picnic. And beyond cultural expressions, she wondered if these girls had any concept of consciousness. Did they know anything about Angela Davis or Sally Hemmings? Or were they stuck in a one-dimensional experience of race? A pigeonholing, based on sight only." pg. 78
Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell "are at opposite ends of the spectrum-the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it." Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia and she wants to learn more about her Black culture so she volunteers to be a tutor at an inner-city community center. Her father was born and raised in the ghetto, but once he got out, he never looked back and now he looks down on "those people." Wendy dreams of going to a HBU, but that's not going to happen under her father's roof. Hakiam is one of "those people" her father can't stand. He moved from home to home in foster care and now he's in Philly to start over while staying with his cousin (and he's often stuck babysitting his cousin's daughter). Wendy and Hakiam meet at the community center and they don't get along. But slowly, they begin to learn to tolerate each other. Which grows into something more... (quotes from back of ARC)
This novel reads like a work in progress. I honestly couldn't believe the book ended where it did, I flipped back and forth a few times. The ending isn't suspenseful, it's a solid and cute ending but it seemed so abrupt. The transitions from chapter to chapter were awkward and not a single character is well developed. The story is told in third person but I still expected to learn more about Wendy. Off the top of my head all I can tell you is that she's the only black girl at her school, doesn't really get along with her father, is a tutor and wants to attend a HBCU (I had to go back and look up what HBCU because I couldn't remember if it was Howard or Spelman). Hakiam came a little closer to being two dimensional, but the book ended before he could fully manifest. I wanted to know more about Wendy's likes, Hakiam's likes (we learned a good deal about their dislikes), more details about growing up in Philly, etc. Why did Leesa (Hakiam's cousin) have such an attitude? Why is Wendy's dad so against poor Black people? Furthermore, there is no romantic chemistry. I'm not an expert, but there was absolutely no indication that they would like each other except for the obvious 'opposites attract'. It's only after they've started to hook up that I could sort of understand why they liked each other, but again, I needed MORE.
Mostly I can only commend the author on what she tried to do. Although I loved the scene when Wendy and Hakiam go on their first date and Wendy has an entire conversation with herself. I also enjoyed some of the banter between Wendy and Hakiam. At times it was sharp, both of them being quick on their feet. At other times, it fell flat. I'm glad the author tried to write a YA romance about Black people that wasn't street lit (not knocking street lit but I like having options). I like that the author wrote about Black prejudice towards other Blacks. I like that the author tried to address the positives and the negatives of going to a HBCU.
Tutored has potential. I firmly believe that if it was longer (the ARC is 179 pages) and the romance slowed down, there would be more obvious chemistry between Wendy and Hakiam and the characters would be more fleshed out. It's not just the characters that need fleshing out though, it's also the issues the author tries to address. I appreciate her discussing Black prejudice, use of the 'n' word and HBCUs but she only touches on these for the briefest of moments. There's no gradual change in attitudes, instead it's a rather dramatic shift. I was hoping Wendy and Hakiam would talk more because when they did, they had interesting discussions. Hakiam opened Wendy's eyes to a new world and she did the same for him, they are good for each other but as a reader, the palpable connection just wasn't there. Ultimately I not only WANTED more, I NEEDED more from the book in order for it to be a success.
Disclosure: Requested for review. I'm not going to do that anymore I don't think because I feel even more terrible if i write a critical review. Anyway, thanks Random House!