In the Key of Us

In this sentimental and impassioned novel by Mariama J. Lockington (For Black Girls Like Me), two Black girls raised in very different ways spend four weeks at a summer camp for musical prodigies.

Thirteen-year-old Andi went to live with her Aunt Janine and Uncle Mark last September, after her mom died in a car accident. Andi is a trumpet player with a good ear who likes "to feel [her] way around to the right notes," but she's less than thrilled when Aunt Janine enrolls her in a month-long summer music program. At Harmony Music Camp, her cabin is full of returning campers: a group of frighteningly talented white girls and the only other Black girl at camp, 12-year-old Zora. Outgoing, bubbly Zora, a flautist, begins to tutor Andi in reading sheet music; as Zora teaches Andi to find balance and structure, Andi teaches Zora to let loose and have a little fun. The bond between the girls gently develops into a sweet summer romance.

Lockington's dual perspectives allow readers to deep dive into her complex and layered characters. Andi deals with grief and the overwhelming feeling of never being good enough; Zora feels suffocated by her perfect image. Lockington skillfully and delicately incorporates into her middle-grade romance anxiety, self-harm, coming out as LGBTQ+, microaggressions and the reality of how difficult life can be for children of color. In the Key of Us ultimately sends a message of hope and freedom that underlines the importance of children and teens letting the world see them for who they really are. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children

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