Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Tutored by Allison Whittenberg

Author: Allison Whittenberg
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Series: N/A
Pages: 192
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: December 14, 2010
How Received: ARC tour

SummaryWendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are at opposite ends of the spectrum – the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it. Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia, where she’s always felt like the only chip in the cookie. Her dad, who fought his way out of the ghetto, doesn’t want hermingling with “those people”. In fact, all Wendy’s life, her father has told her how terrible “those people” are. He even objects to Wendy’s plan to attend a historically black college. But Wendy feels that her face is more than just the color of her skin, and she takes a job tutoring at an inner-city community center to get a more diverse perspective on life.

Hakiam has never lived in one place for more than a couple of years. When he aged out of foster care in Ohio, he hopped a bus to Philly to start over, but now he’s broke, struck taking care of his cousin’s premature baby for no pay, and finding it harder than ever to stay out of trouble. When he meets Wendy at the tutoring cener, he thinks she’s an uppity snob—she can’t possibly understand his life. But as he gets to know her better, he sees a softer side. And eventually—much to the chagrin of Wendy’s father and Hakiam’s cousin—they begin a rocky, but ultimately enlightening, romance.

My Thoughts:
For a book that’s called Tutored, not much tutoring was going on at all. That seems just like a random complaint, but for a book that had the word “tutor” in the title, I expect something along the lines of tutoring actually happening and falling in love because of their closeness while tutoring/being tutored.

The romance between Hakiam and Wendy was so flat. To put it simply, I hated it. It starts off good: they hate each other and it seems like romantic relations will start to develop. But it totally skipped the “developed” part. One moment Wendy and Hakiam hated each other, the next, Hakiam shows Wendy his baby cousin and dares kissing her and BAM! They’re in love and they don’t even question their relationship or anything. They’re a solid team. They don’t even try to get to know each other well. It felt forced and I didn’t enjoy reading it at all.

The only thing I saw develop in this book was Hakiam, and it was refreshing to see him go from being a nothing, a no one, who is about to become homeless to someone who wants to make a change in his life. You could see it his change very gradually – first he starts watching some of Wendy’s movies, then he becomes knowledgeable about illnesses prone to pre-mature babies, and it finishes off with him getting a job and trying to get his GED. He went from a thug home-boi to someone who cared about his life. Hakiam was such an amazing character, compared to Wendy, who I hated reading about.

Wendy, to put it simply, is stupid. Sure, she’s a self-proclaimed genius and is going places. But she’s spiteful. She refuses to go to a “white” college just because her black father was against anything second-rate. If the only reason she wants to apply to a black college is to spite her father, then that is the most un-intelligent thing she could ever do. She never even states why she wants to go to one or ever puts up a valid argument – she can’t see exactly what’s in front of her because she’s a spiteful little girl who thinks she knows it all. I hated listening to hear talk and I have to admit I was tempted to skip her passages altogether. 

I was really looking forward to a book that had African-American portrayal, but this just fell flat for me. The only real African-American portrayals were extremes – very opposite ends of the spectrum – with the ghetto and with “white-washed” blacks. There was no in between. I expected this book to celebrate its race, but rather, it just came off as scorned – and not just from Wendy’s father. I did, however, like how much of our current culture was present in the book. One of Wendy’s fathers favorite examples of intelligent black men was President Obama and he’d come up in a lot of his arguments against Wendy going to a black school.

Cover Musings: Love the heart. <3 It’s not great, but I like it. Although when I see a heart made of paper, I expect love via learning. (random small complaints =p).

Memorable Quotes:
“Yeah, but I can tell. When I see someone roll in coppin’ a ‘tude—“
“Talk that talk, sister,” Erin interrupted.
“You mean ‘sista,’” Wendy corrected.
“Sorry, I flunked Ebonics in middle school,” Erin said. (pg. 26)
“You have a baby. You didn’t tell me that last time.”
“It ain’t mine.”
Wendy took the cap off her highlighter and went back to reading her book. “You ought to get on The Maury Povich Show.” (pg. 33)
“Babies drink formula or breast milk. That’s it,” Leesa said, and turned to Malikia, frowning. “I can’t tell you how much money she could save me if she’d just take it from the tap.”
“Don’t nobody want to hear about your booby-milk sob story, Leesa,” Hakiam said. (pg. 38)
The vendor running [a pretzel stand] had a string of pretzels shoved into his armpit. He broke them off one by one as people ordered them. Hakiam figured the armpit just added to the salty flavor. Pg. 51
“I’m your main squeeze,” she proclaimed, pressing her fingers to her chest, using her stock “soul sister” accent. Then she did a triple snap in the air. It felt freeing to pull it out every now and then. She liked the reaction it got from people. They always looked at her as if to say, You can do that? (pg. 110)
“It’s like I’m dating my dad, Erin.”
“I think that’s illegal in Pennsylvania.” (pg. 131)

Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I think this book had a lot more potential than how it was executed. Tutored was a quick read, but it didn’t hold my attention nor did it lure me into the story. I never felt the connection between Wendy and Hakiam – the romance fell short on so many levels. The only character development occurred with Hakiam, and I still think Wendy needs a lot of growing up to do.

Rating: 2/5

**I received this ARC from Star Book Tours (Thanks Katelyn ♥)


Felicity Grace Terry said...

Not a book you enjoyed then. I'm glad you used to word flat to describe their romance - I used this word today to describe the characters of a book and wasn't sure if people would know what I meant.

Anna said...

Frustrated that the African-American portrayals fell flat...we need more diversity in literature!

Danna (Bananas For Books) said...

Great honest review! I was actually looking forward to reading this book, but I've read a few reviews-including yours-that were negative so I'm kind of iffy. I guess I'll wait til it goes on sale or something.

Kristina Barnes♥ said...

@Tracy: Yeah, I've heard the word flat describe tons of characters before. :P I thought the book was ok - it definitely could have been a lot better!

@Anna: I'm thinkin' the same thing! I was excited to read about African-American portrayal in literature! I'm hoping I'll like Allison's future novels more. :)

@Danna: Thank you! You might wanna wait til you can read it in-stores or check it out at the library. I've seen a few negatives reviews, myself, so I'm a bit hesitant at instantly recommending it.

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