“I never knew walking right into trouble would make me feel strong. Maybe it has to be the right type of trouble.” – Ramée 337

I’m 33, but reading middle-level reader books and young adult books is still one of my favorite things to do. After all, I teach young people, and reading what they read is a fantastic way to connect with them. Besides, there is so much magnificent literature for young people, and a good story is a good story, after all.

One of my favorite English teachers on Twitter — Penny Kittle — recommended A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée. This book is for middle school girls, but I think all types of audiences might enjoy it.

I can’t imagine growing up in the 2010s and 2020s. Young people today have to think about things that I never did. Making sense of the Blue Lives Matter vs. Black Lives Matter mentalities is one such conflict.

Young people today do, though. Even if parents and teachers relatively shelter them from it at home and school, they have access to the entire world through their phones and the internet (another thing that my young brain didn’t have to cope with).

A Good Kind of Trouble is about a young girl of color who inevitably confronts all sorts of conflict, including changing friendship dynamics, romance, bullying, and racial tension.

“crushes can be like . . . fairy dust. Special and sparkly and sort of magical, but then most times, they sort of blow away. And if you’ve gotten rid of friends just to chase the dust, well then, you don’t have anything.”

Ramée 200

“I just bet partnering me with Bernard is some devious experiment: what happens if we mix trouble-hating girl with bully boy? Kaboom. That’s what.”

Ramée 3

“I hate when a teacher assumes that just because I’m Black, I’ll know all about slavery and civil rights and stuff like that. I’m the only Black student in the class, so I know everyone’s staring at me, trying to see if I have bat wings or hairy armpits. Like being Black is a whole different species.”

Ramée 22

Shayla, twelve years old, tries to navigate the seventh grade as best she can, but trouble is all she seems to encounter. 

“I’m allergic to trouble. It makes my hands itch.”

Ramée 1

Her two best friends are her world. They are the “three Muskateers!” 

“Some people think it’s weird I have two best friends. ‘But who’s your favorite?’ they’ll ask. Who could pick between pizza and spaghetti? They’re both the best.”

Ramée 5

But, one likes the same boy as Shayla; meanwhile, her other friend seems to have found a new group of friends to have lunch with, leaving the other two girls saddened by her defection. 

“I used to think I was super lucky because some people only have one best friend, and I had two. But what do I do when my two best friends have both done me dirty?”

Ramée 183

Middle school crushes are a big deal, and the same is true for Shayla. As much as she finds the school hunk to be her ideal man, she slowly realizes that character matters more than looks and popularity. 

“I bet feeling good about yourself for being brave feels tons better than something silly like having a boyfriend.”

Ramée 336

Not all is as it seems. Even the seventh-grade bully Shayla fears is more than he looks. Bernard is the school outcast, but as Shayla gets to know him throughout science lab, she begins to recognize her privileges and sees the good things about Bernard that people tend to overlook. 

“I mean, even bullies have mothers.”

Ramée 117

Meanwhile, her older sister — Hana — is involved in Black Lives Matter protests. Shayla just wants to avoid trouble. However, once she starts seeing the same injustices her sister protests, she realizes that staying silent is no longer an option she can live with while maintaining a clear conscience. 

“I know Black Lives Matter is reminding people our lives count too, but some people take it wrong and think it means we are saying our lives matter more than theirs. Or that only our lives matter. But Momma explained it to me. She said if you go to the doctor and told him you broke your arm and he said, Well, okay, let’s put you in a full body cast, you’d say, But, doctor, only my arm is broken. . . . even though all your bones matter, you only need to fix the broken one”

Ramée 61-2

She experiments with different ways to make her voice heard and stand up to the injustices around her — big and small. 

“if you are never afraid, then how do you know when you’re brave?”

Ramée 297

One of the ways Shayla finds to build her self-confidence and sense of belonging is joining the track team. She expands her friendship, tests her bravery, and learns the importance of teamwork and connection.

“Winning felt awesome, but being part of a team? That was even better.”

Ramée 345 

Shayla’s experience is the experience of our young people today. There are endless conflicts to navigate, and I don’t always know that the adults in their lives are helping them to figure it out. Perhaps because we are struggling to do the same thing! That’s why I think it’s important to model how we do it for young people and bring them along with us on the journey. 

Connection is important. It’s how we learn. And, when we find ourselves caught in the middle of the good kind of trouble, then we aren’t alone.

“Although it’s for a sad reason, and there are a lot of angry faces, it feels good to be part of something. To belong.”

Ramée 209

“Some things are worth the trouble.”

Ramée 358

Support local bookstores by getting your copy of A Good Kind of Trouble there; or, you can order it from Bookshop.org, which helps support independent bookstores! Shopping at indie bookstores is a much richer experience than shopping at Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Check out why!

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