From School Library Journal
Gr 5-8–When Serenity's mother is killed and her father disappears, the girl and her brother, Danny, move in with their grandmother and grandfather, who is the pastor at the Restoration Baptist Church. While dealing with her tumultuous loss, Serenity learns the importance of making wise choices at the same moment her brother begins falling in with the wrong crowd. Starting fresh at a new school holds promising beginnings for Serenity when she makes a new friend and becomes involved with the youth ministry at her grandfather's church. Religion and faith play a large part in their lives. Serenity Evans is a strong African-American character who will resonate with girls who are facing transitions of their own, large or small. Danny's friend's murder near the end of the book creates a disjointed finish to an otherwise well-written novel, but does not detract from the plot development. The overall message of staying true to one's self is strong and reassuring. This debut novel is an excellent choice for libraries serving urban populations, as well as those serving faith-based communities.Stephanie Malosh, Donoghue Elementary School, Chicago, IL
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When their father flees after their mother’s death, 13-year-old Serenity and her younger brother, Danny, go to live with their loving grandparents, who support the children as they make their way in their new school, neighborhood, and church. In her journal, Serenity reflects on her hopes and concerns as she deals with a strong pull toward a boy who’s headed down the wrong path, wonders how to help a friend with an abusive father, worries about her brother’s choices, and senses her own moral compass wavering at times. Details of her mother’s death emerge slowly as the novel progresses. Each chapter begins with a poem written in response to a poetry assignment, a quote from a poet such as Maya Angelou, or a passage from the Bible. Packed with events, details, and revelations, this first-person novel creates a believable portrayal of Serenity, struggling through a difficult time but drawing strength from her wise, loving African American family and their broader community. Grades 5-8. --Carolyn Phelan