I knew I was going to like this book as soon as I saw that beautiful cover. Yuta Onoda did a phenomenal job of putting us into Alma’s world before we even open the book. Alma is a half-Chinese, half-Jewish thirteen-year-old navigating life in New York City in the early 80s. At the end of 8th grade and the summer that follows, Alma is dealing with the impending demise of her parents’ marriage, hanging with her friends, and figuring out what may be some romantic feelings for her friend Miguel. She also gets her period, deals with the loss of a friend who moves away, and has meaningful conversations with her school guidance counselor. And she always, always has her favorite music close by.
As someone who was about Alma’s age at the time this book takes place, I loved the nostalgia brought on by Alma’s playlists, her favorite candy (some of which I had completely forgotten about!), and the pop culture references of the day. It reminded me of simpler times, when the limits of your world were your neighborhood, and time with your friends was the priority of your day.
I have to admit that I’ve never been a big fan of poetry, so the idea of a novel written in verse was a tad intimidating, but Cane made the words flow so effortlessly that I almost forgot about their format. I actually enjoyed the way the words and phrases were spaced on the page, and the blank spaces between the chunks of text felt like breaths that Alma would take were she speaking these words aloud.
I would recommend this book for later middle-grade readers and younger YA readers. Alma is only thirteen but she really is an old soul, wise beyond her years in some moments. And, as always, I encourage those of us who aren’t such young adults to check this out as well.
Thank you to Make Me a World, Penguin Random House, and NetGalley for providing a copy of this book for review.