author: Michael Wenberg
publisher: Westside Books
main character: Jace Adams
Jace changes schools every few months because his mother is unable to keep a job or a man. She loses them, and moves on, her child in tow. With so many new schools in his life, why does Wenberg choose to tell us about Jace’s stint in Seattle when in fact, Jace plans to return to California where he can hit the surf as soon as he can? Wenberg tells us about Seattle because this is the place that will matter to Jace. It’s where he actually makes friends, falls in love and finds his true gifts. It’s where he settles down. It’s also where his mother up and leaves him.
Jace Adams is bi-racial, his mom is Black and his dad is white. When moving to Seattle, Jace and his mom move in with her sister, Bernice.His dad disappeared a long time ago. Jace’s racial identity does matter as Wenberg shows the obstacles young Black men can and do face in society. But, he doesn’t linger on them. Instead, he advances his story by showing how much Jace achieved by developing his talents and networking with people who could help him, not because of pity or affirmative action but simple because Jace was an outstanding musician. Wenberg’s message is clear: be good at what you do, connect with good people and you’ll get somewhere in life.
I didn’t think I was going to like Jace because I couldn’t feel sorry for him. Things kept piling up against him and somehow, Wenberg took away my need to pity Jace. I realized I’ve been reading too many books about male characters written by females.
My favorite character in the book had to be Bernice, Jace’s aunt. Appearing tough as nails for the sake of self-preservation, she was a true and honest character. Least favorite? Elvis. Perhaps if he had been better developed some of the things he said wouldn’t have been so awkward. I had a difficult time accepting that Jace’s mom would have left her son because they seemed so close, but I suppose moving in with her no-nonsense sister gave her the opportunity to follow her heart. There’s a lot to this story and it’s well told. I finished it wishing I had cello music on hand to play the end notes.