Thursday, November 7, 2019

A Good Kind of Trouble

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée. Grades 5-8. Balzer + Bray, March 2019. 368 pages. Reviewed from galley provided by publisher.


Shayla is allergic to trouble. She is a rules-follower, the kind of person who gets anxious about any kind of conflict, the kind of person who keeps to herself and doesn't make waves. But when she starts junior high, things start to get a little complicated. First, she's assigned as Bernard's lab partner. Bernard is a rough kid, the kind of kid who's always in trouble, and Shayla doesn't want anything to do with him.

Then, she starts having issues with her best friends. Shayla, Isabella, and Julia have always been best friends, calling themselves the United Nations because they're all from different ethnic backgrounds. But now Julia's hanging out with the Asian kids more and Shayla's sister keeps asking her why she doesn't have any Black friends. Race never seemed to matter, but now it's starting to. Especially since there's tension in their California neighborhood as a white police officer is on trial for shooting and killing an unarmed Black man.

Shayla joins the track team where she meets a lot of African American girls and isn't sure she fits in with them. She's navigating first crushes and trying to deal with boys who seem to have a crush on her. Throughout all this, Shayla's trying not to ruffle any feathers, but it turns out that sometimes staying quiet is worse than speaking up.

Shayla may be allergic to trouble, but maybe sometimes there's trouble that's worth having, especially when it means standing up for what you believe in.

My thoughts:

This is a really solid middle school story with Shayla dealing with many of the universal issues that middle schoolers face - changing friendships, starting to figure out who you are and the person you want to be, dealing with crushes. And all of those smaller issues work together to show Shayla's character development as she learns to find her voice and speak up. Shayla learns that there are times that you need to make your voice heard - from being up front with a boy who she's just not that into to taking a stand when injustice happens in your community.

This is a great Black Lives Matter book for middle schoolers who aren't ready to tackle the violence and language of The Hate U Give. It has a lot of great discussion points about race and prejudice and unfair systems, but it honestly didn't feel like an "issue book" to me. Shayla's character development is very real and believable as she navigates all the things happening in her life and learns and grows from her mistakes.


  • Blended by Sharon M. Draper (Atheneum, 2018). These books feature African American girls coming of age as they face racism in their communities. 
  • Lu by Jason Reynolds (Atheneum, 2018). African American middle schoolers navigate hurdles both on and off the track in these books.