Review of In the Key of Us

In the Key of UsIn the Key of Us
by Mariama J. Lockington
Middle School    Farrar    368 pp.    g
4/22    978-0-374-31410-1    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-374-31412-5    $9.99

Thirteen-year-old Andi Byrd is a talented trumpeter, constantly encouraged by her supportive mother. After her mother dies and she is sent to live with relatives, Andi finds it hard to get back into her artistic groove. Her talent lands her a spot at a prestigious music camp, but the inspiration still isn’t there—until Andi meets Zora. A regular attendee of the camp, Zora has a reputation for excellence—a reputation she’s upheld at the risk of her well-being. As the only two Black girls at the predominantly white camp, Zora and Andi are initially reluctant to be lumped together but soon discover they are just what the other needs. Zora’s strict practice regimen reminds Andi to focus on all aspects of the music; in turn, Andi teaches Zora that improv is welcome every now and then. As they grow closer, the girls begin to apply these lessons to other areas of their lives: Zora acknowledging her desire to be a dancer rather than a flutist, and Andi coming to terms with all the memories of her mother, not just the good ones. The novel is told in alternating first-person accounts (separated by free verse written from the viewpoint of the camp itself), and the voices of Andi and Zora are distinct and consistent, providing a comprehensive view of this coming-of-age romance. Themes of self-harm and anxiety are geared toward a middle-school audience; a list of resources appears in the author’s note.

From the May/June 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Eboni Njoku
Eboni Njoku is a children’s librarian at the Anacostia Neighborhood Library Branch of the DC Public Library.

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