Goode’s debut is a provocative, authentic coming-of-age story that explores of the power of language in shaping identity, structured around the subversive, expressive nature of hip-hop music. “Word nerd” Esme is a 16-year-old Jewish lesbian in the “sterile minivan parade” of Holyhill, Minnesota. She and her friends — butch Marcy, religious Tess, and Indian Rowie — are hip-hop crew Sister Mischief, who write rhymes to confront issues of race, gender, class, and sexuality. When the principal outlaws “violence-inducing culture,” including hip-hop, the girls plan a guerilla performance to bring awareness to the masses, while Esme’s and Rowie’s burgeoning relationship sends them spinning in new directions. Esme’s flowing, slangy narrative is expressive and idiosyncratic, and her relationship with Rowie is sweet and seductive. All of the girls realistically defy stereotypes, and their strong relationships with each other and
their families (particularly Esme’s and Marcys’ amazing dads and Rowie’s mom) are the linchpin of the story. Goode sometimes tries too hard to deconstruct hip-hop culture, and the slang may trip up some readers, but overall this debut is full of big ideas, big heart, and big poetry, with a positive, activist message. Sex, language, and alcohol/drug use limit this to older teens.
– Krista Hutley, Booklist, June 1st edition (starred review)