Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Own Worst Frenemy

My Own Worst Frenemy by Kimberly Reid (Chanti on the Case #1) ARC
Dafina KTeen/Kensington Publishing Corp

Release Date: Today!

Rating: 4/5

IQ "But as soon as I see him sitting on the library steps waiting for me, I turn to lava, hot for him but without form. I have no resolve; everything in me turns soft." Chanti pg. 265

I chose the above sentence for the Incredible Quote because I thought it was a good example of the author taking tired old lines to describe feelings and creating new similes. The lava comparison made me pause for a second whereas if it been something like "weak at the knees" or "turned into jello" I wouldn't have given it a second glance.

Fifteen-year old Chanti (short for Chantal) has already managed to gain the disdain of her new principal, Headmistress Smythe and the 'queen bee' Lissa at her new school, Langdon Prep. Langdon is filled with mostly rich students, except for Chanti and the super-cute Marco Ruiz. Chanti and Marco attend Langdon on scholarship and everyone knows it and looks down on them because of that fact. They are also easy targets and as things begin disappearing around the school, it becomes clear that someone is setting up Chanti and Marco. The final straw is pulled when Chanti and Marco are blamed for home burglaries. Chanti's mother is an undercover cop so she can help her daughter clear her name a little but she also can't risk blowing her cover. Marco is willing to help Chanti figure out who the burglar is and possibly even to catch him/her.

Chanti is funny but it's not all silly humor, early on in the book she is talking about how to pronounce her name, "And please pronounce my name right-Shawnty, not Shanty like the towns where poor people live in a Steinbeck book" (pg. 2). At first I thought this line was an obvious trick to show how uniquely smart Chanti was for her neighborhood (where most of the kids didn't give two hoots about school) but she doesn't utter many of those lines and when she does, it doesn't seem obnoxious. In fact, it seems like a plausible line for someone with enough confidence to say. Chanti also reminded me of my younger sister in a good way. My sister utters ridiculous statements all the time and Chanti inadvertently does too such as when she's trying to silently tell other girls to back off Marco, "I'm at the back of the line working up the nerve to give her the evil eye that says 'he's mine, and you'd be wise to back up.' Some women can do that. Lana could. MJ could. But they're both scary and scary won't work for me. I could probably do crazy. Just as I'm about to get my crazy look going, Lissa looks down at the notes she's about to bore us with. Smythe looks up at me then, and I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm crazy.
'Is there anything wrong Chantal?'
'No, um..it's just that I don't have a pen.'" (pg. 24). Chanti describing herself trying to get her crazy look going made me laugh out loud for some reason. Probably because it's something I or one of my friends or my sister would say. I also really appreciated the fact that Chanti didn't over-use random slang nor did she talk completely proper. Like many Black students I know, she knew when to speak properly and when she could relax a bit and that transition is something not all authors grasp but it's an important distinction I think.

The mystery was excellent. I admit I was skeptical since Chanti was fifteen (and I do wish she was older because that might make it a little more realistic) and so she had to work her way around the driving issue and that didn't always work out plausibly. And I didn't like the fact that the book is mostly about Chanti, her mother and Marco. More character development is needed, I especially found it hard to believe that EVERYONE at Langdon refused to befriend Chanti. The mystery element kept me guessing and there were enough twists thrown in to keep me guessing but not enough to completely confuse me. I do wish Chanti's mother hadn't been a police detective because while I don't read many mysteries I feel as though that's a classic cliche (a la Nancy Drew), detective-whose-parents-are-cops-or-lawyers. That being said I really liked the fact that Chanti used authentic cop tips, she didn't go off and do crazy things. Since her mother was a cop, she makes a point of distinguishing between how cops act on TV and how they can act in real life. Sometimes I need a reminder that cops on TV are not 99% authentic! There's a good number of suspects and it's easy to follow along with Chanti as she eliminates them. The romance is light, in fact, there isn't really any romance which I liked because the way the book ended concerning Chanti's relationship with Marco made a lot of sense (bonus: bicultural romance!) for high school underclassmen.

My Own Worst Frenemy is a fine example of books we need more of in books for youth. An intelligent main character who doesn't take herself too seriously who happens to be Black and who uses common sense to solve a mystery that isn't completely random and unrealistic (i.e. a teenager solving a murder). Chanti is a fun protagonist and she could easily have been one of my best friends. I was pleasantly surprised at issues of class that were more in depth than I thought they would be concerning not just the students at Langdon but also the faculty and janitorial staff. There are some definite holes; the conclusion was rushed, more character development is needed, at times the author seemed to be stretching to make characters appear as suspects/remove them from the suspect list and personally I wish Chanti was older but overall it was a strong debut and I certainly intend on reading further about Chanti's escapades (particularly to find out the backstory of Bethanie. I'm dying to know more about her!).

Disclosure: Received from author. Thank you so very much!