A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE was all kinds of good. Sometimes a middle grade novel can talk down to its audience, but this book is that rare gem that manages to be timeless, perfectly capturing that awkward time in our lives when we're navigating all the major firsts, whether it's a first crush, to the first stirrings of our burgeoning soon-to-be-adult identities.
Shayla is twelve years old. She has two best friends, Julia, who is Japanese, and Isabella, who is Puerto Rican. They call themselves the United Nations because they're proud of their diverse little group. But this year, things are different. Isabella has become really, really pretty, and the boy Shayla likes might like Isabella better. And Julia has started to hang out with an all-Asian group of friends, who are kind of catty and mean, and appropriate Black slang while also looking down on "less favorable" elements of Black culture, such as Black Lives Matter.
In the background of this novel, their community is rocked by several truly devastating murders of Black individuals, and one of the most heartbreaking moment is when Shayla doesn't understand why the murderers aren't punished. It truly says something awful about our country, when something even a child can see is morally reprehensible and unforgivable is excused by those in power. The injustice and sheer futility of that moment moved me to tears, and I was so proud of Shayla when that agony and unfairness pushed her to follow in her sister's footsteps to join the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is a wonderful coming of age story, with a sympathetic heroine who is awkward and unsure of herself, and sometimes selfish, but has a good heart and a loving family, and wants to do what's right. A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE deftly explores a lot of mature themes in a way that's easy to grasp for a middle grade audience without being at all condescending, and I was so impressed at the wide array of topics, whether it was internalized racism, the racism that occurs within other groups of people of color, institutionalized racism that facilitates the ill-treatment of people of color (and specifically BIPOC individuals), and what how sometimes you have to break the rules to do a good thing, if the rules that are set in place are flawed and causing people pain to begin with.
I loved Shayla's whole family, especially her mother and her sister, and the supportive teachers (especially her science teacher and coach!) were wonderful. I also liked how the principal ended up eating her words. That was SO satisfying. Oh-- and the whole character arc with Bernard was wonderful. I totally saw it coming, but it was still immensely satisfying and squee. I simply can't say enough good things about this. It's perfect for middle graders and shares many of the themes that made me love THE HATE U GIVE so much, only toned down for the 10-14 audience.