12 Nov / Paradise on Fire by Jewell Parker Rhodes [in Booklist]
At 4, Adaugo lost both parents and a best friend to fire. Grandma Bibi left Nigeria to raise her. Eleven years later, Grandma sends Addy from their Bronx apartment to Wilderness Adventures, a California summer camp for disadvantaged city youth, insisting, “Daughter of an eagle” – conjuring the proud meaning of Adaugo’s name – “You must go.”
Addy’s lifelong obsession with drawing escape maps makes her both resistant to and unknowingly prepared for the experiences ahead. Leo, the camp’s white owner – once a struggling city child himself, although Addy insists, “We’re not the same. You make yourself feel good helping poor kids” – will nevertheless prove to be teacher and guide for Addy’s growth. When a camping trip literally goes up in flames, Addy must face her demons to save her new friends.
Narrator Tyla Collier proves herself adaptively facile in differentiating Jewell Parker Rhodes’ latest cast of teens and adults from diverse backgrounds, adding energy, impatience, anxiety, and jubilation in exacting doses throughout. Collier is especially affecting with Rhodes’ impactful afterword that highlights human-caused devastation to our forests and beyond.
Readers: Middle Grade, Young Adult