True story: I’m Gem, G-E-M, like a precious jewel, and my life has been nothing like my name. I’ve been on my own since I was nine and now I’m sixteen. But so what. I’m good, and so is my little brother. So why the state won’t let us do our own thing is beyond me. Instead, we’ve been forced to live with a foster family who wants to love us, but I’m not beat—I’m just trying to do me.
To make matters worse, I’ve been checking for this guy, Ny’eem. But my new clique has an unbreakable rule—no boyz allowed to come between our friendship—which is forcing me to keep my relationship with Ny’eem a secret. Though not for long. . .because in high school secrets are always exposed, scandals always rewrite the rules, and friendships are never what they seem. . .
Review: I absolutely love how Ni-Ni Simone connects with her readers. Here’s an example from this book’s dedication:
To the Gems of the world–know that as long as there is God, there is Love, And wherever there is love, there is always hope. And wherever there is hope, there is always the ability to be anything you want to be!
How powerful is that dedication to teen readers? Very. Then she starts the book with a poem about black beauty that was beautifully written.
Gem and her brother have been on their own as long as she can remember. She keeps hoping that her Mom will come along and take them out of the foster system but it hasn’t happened yet. Not sure of what’s best for her and her little brother, she acts up and gets them thrown out of each and every home that takes them in…until this one.
I laughed so much as the characters in this foster home were introduced. The aunt and uncle were eccentric and weird and gave a lightness to the story that had heavy elements. One night, Gem’s little brother climbs into bed with her and convinces her to stop being “mean” so they could stay at one home. It broke my heart knowing that she was a sixteen year old trying to keep their world together and confronting the reality that her mother never would come to rescue them. In fact, when the confrontation took place in the book I cried my eyes out.
Under the protective eye of her foster family brother, Gem goes to a party and gets introduced to some of the students that will go to her new school. One boy in particular catches her eye but the highlight of the party is finding an old childhood friend she reconnects with. As her life finally seems to be coming together, things fall apart again and Gem has to confide in her best friend and her new foster family as she weathers the pain that comes with a breakup.
The story flowed from beginning to end and I didn’t have any trouble keeping up with the language nuances, but did feel that some of the elements of being a foster kid were not really explained. For instance, the foster family gives Gem bags and boxes of brand new clothes without really letting us know what they do for a living but the crazy family relatives living in the house more than made up for any little tidbits we didn’t know the answer to.
I feel that this author has made a connection with her readers that will draw them to this story.