Last Summer on State Street

HarperAudio. Jun. 2022. 6:06 hrs. ISBN 9780063209770. $21.99. F
Wolfe’s poignant debut novel is set in 1999 Chicago, when high-rise public housing—where Wolfe herself grew up—is being destroyed and replaced. Kind and introspective 12-year-old Felicia “Fefe” Stevens enjoys the summer, Double Dutch rope jumping, eating snow cones, and hanging out with her friends. When Fefe invites mysterious Tonya to join Stacia, whose family includes gang members, and Precious, the daughter of a minister, their delicate balance shifts, with devastating consequences. Narrator Shayna Small flawlessly gives voice to the girls and depicts their personalities, from the nasty to the amiable. Her vivid and engaging performance is irresistible. While all of her characterizations are robust, her depiction of Mama Pearl, an elderly neighbor who always has the right answers, stands out. Also affecting is a heartbreaking letter from Fefe’s incarcerated 16-year-old brother. When Tonya suddenly disappears, Fefe’s determination to learn her fate is agonizing, but importantly reveals the shocking realities of lives that are often unseen.
VERDICT Audio enriches this soon-to-be-classic story of racism, violence, family, and community. Recommended for fans of Jacqueline Woodson and Brit Bennett.
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