The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley

by : 
Naya B., North County High School

Throughout the story, the reader sees the town of Harlem from three perspectives: Jin Yi, an orphan adopted by her grandparents who own a bodega, Alex Roebuck, who spends her time giving back to the community anonymously, and, Elvin Morrow, a boy just coming from California to live with his grandfather when suddenly, his grandad is attacked in the community garden.  

The story's characters felt very genuine. They weren't too generic, while also seeming fairly realistic to the reader. I enjoyed the suspense aspect of the story as the plot developed and the three teamed up to find out what happened to Elvin's grandfather. I also appreciated the author's word choice when it came to descriptions of the city and its buildings--it honestly felt like you were walking through Harlem.  

The overall theme of the book sends a good message to its audience that stories live inside of the work we create. Through every chapter, the message unfolds as the kids begin to discover more about their city from the relics that keep Harlem's history alive. The ending of the book did seem a little tidy--the way everything seemed to work out, in the end, felt impractical. Also, the way the children's emotions were displayed seemed a bit rushed--they'd become frustrated over something, and then immediately felt indifferent after exchanging a few words. Still, I'd rate this book 5 stars for its interesting backstory and I'd recommend it to students 10-16 and anyone who enjoys historical fiction and art. 

Click here to checkout The Harlem Charade by Natasha Tarpley