Subscribe to SLJ
Follow This Blog: RSS feed
Heavy Medal: A Mock Newbery Blog
Inside Heavy Medal

Jade & Patina: Two Admirable Young Women

piecingmetogether

One of our short listed titles this year is The Hate U Give, with a teenaged black protagonist attending a predominantly white school away from her own neighborhood.  At least two other titles in 2017 feature  similar situations.  Jason Reynolds’ Patina and Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together (both received four starred reviews from major review journals.) If two or all three are nominated by Newbery members, the chances are high that these three titles are discussed and compared against each other.

Readers of Heavy Medal perhaps already know how I assess THUG against Piecing Me Together.  To quote my own comments a while back, “I find Jade to be a much more memorable and realized character than Starr. Her artistic expressions and her ‘caught between two worlds’ experiences leave a much stronger lasting impression for me,” and “The specificities of Starr’s family and her father having to deal with a powerful local crime lord make this title, in my view, actually less universal.”  In contrast, the tension of Jade’s story does not come from criminal activities or life and death situations — but real, every day struggle of a young woman trying to find her place in the world, and doing her best to excel.

Jade attends “St. Francis High School on the other side of town… Which means it’s mostly white, which means it’s expensive. ”

Jade’s focus on excelling in her school work and her artistic expression are both clearly conveyed by Watson.  Watson employs the mentoring program to organically represent several different individual experiences of the young black women mentors so readers have the opportunity to perceive more than a single story or imagery.  Jade’s chosen artistic medium is collage which echoes the title of the book and authentically reflects her own coming-of-age experience.  Toward the end of the novel, Watson writes in Jade’s voice, (chapter 67 – renacimiento/rebirth)

I’ve been combining moments from different photos, blending decades, people, and words that don’t belong together.  Knitting history into the beautiful, bloody tapestry it is. Emmett Till meets Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown.  Rosa Parks and Sandra Bland talk with each other under southern trees…. The faces lie on top of newspaper articles and headlines, only I take the words from the headlines and spell out new titles, rewrite history.

Piecing Me Together, although does not make light of African American struggles, definitely focuses more on everyday triumphs and is emotionally uplifting for its intended readers.

patinaIn Reynolds’ second installment of the Track series, Patina is a new student and a “raisin in milk” at the mostly white Chester Academy where “rich girls whose daddies own stuff. Not like cars and clothes, though they got those, too. But stuff like… boats…and building! And businesses!”

What I appreciate most about Reynolds’ portrayal of Patina (Patty) is her sharp and and always matter-of-fact observations: “lunch is sautéed prawn, which ain’t nothing but a fancy way to say cooked shrimp.” Reynolds is also dexterous in vivid descriptions. When Patty feels anxious and her throat closes up, she thinks, “Did I eat the plate without knowing?  Did the pointy fingers of the fork break off?  Did I swallow them, so now plastic nails were poking the inside of my neck?”

Like Jade, Patty is single-minded — to excel in what she does best, running. Like Jade, she must navigate between two/multi-worlds.  And like Jade, she finds the beginning of a brighter and more hopeful path at the end of the book.

I absolutely love how Patina ends — Reynolds keeps it in suspense and readers never quite find out how the race ends!  The last few lines read like spoken-word:

Warriors.  The finish line. Right there.  Leave your legs on the track.  Heart pounding.  Beads clicking in time with my steps, like a clock ticking in my ears.
Or a time bomb.
Come on, Patty. Come on!

These two titles would definitely get my votes over The Hate U Give.  I wonder if any of them is on the actual Newbery Table this year!

Share
Roxanne Hsu Feldman About Roxanne Hsu Feldman

Roxanne Hsu Feldman is the Middle School (4th to 8th grade) Librarian at the Dalton School in New York City. She served on the 2002 and 2013 Newbery Committees. Roxanne was also a member of 2008-2009 Notable Books for Children, 2015 Best Fiction for Young Adults, and the 2017 Odyssey Award Committees. In 2016 Roxanne was one of the three judges for the Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards. You can reach her at at roxannefeldman@gmail.com.

Comments

  1. Sharon McKellar Sharon McKellar says:

    This is another one where you and I differ a bit. I *really* liked Piecing me Together, but found the Hate U Give to be stronger.

    Most of this is from a comment on another post, but I commented late and I don’t know that anyone saw it.

    I found the pacing of the plot and the timeline in Piecing Me Together to be at times confusing and at times just off. How much time passed between chapters? What had happened in the meantime? Why did her relationships change on a dime without enough insight into what happened to make them do so? Secondary characters just served as a way for us to see what was going on in Jade’s head, but didn’t feel fully formed on their own. They were just devices to explore the internal conflcit.

    I felt the plot lacked a central conflict that was big enough to draw me in, and Jade’s internal conflict was not presented in a strong enough way to make up for that, nor was the description or characterization (particularly of secondary characters) strong enough to counter the pacing and lack of central conflict.

    I very much enjoyed the book, but it felt a bit too plodding for me. In the same way that AMINA’S VOICE did too much, PIECING ME TOGETHER did just not quite enough for me.

  2. Sharon, how interesting that I did not find any of the flaws in Piecing Me Together as you mentioned: the plot progression does not confuse me and I find Jade’s relationships with others shift both organically and rationally: mostly because of her being an attentive observer. Maxine, the flawed mentor who also matures in the course of the narrative – changing from being entitled and self-centered to being more aware of others and also more self-reflective. Maxine is definitely not just a device. I’d take her over Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend, who does not stand out as a fully-fleshed out character but a convenient device, allowing the author to make certain social commentaries.

    I also appreciate Watson’s ability to keep the readers engaged by authentically presenting Jade’s internal quiet storms, without relying on external and uber dramatic moments: there are no brutal deaths, tear-gas canister throwing, fugitive hide-outs, or drug-lord cleaning house and burning down a shop.

  3. Cherylynn says:

    The strength of Piecing Me Together is the quiet parts of life. The character development seems much more genuine for happening slowly over time with small moments in life making changes in how a teen sees herself and others.
    The Hate U Give seemed much more reactive. The death of the boy by the officer was close enough to the beginning of the book that I did not know what Star’s life looked like before the event.

  4. Alexa Hamilton says:

    I really struggled with Piecing Me Together. I found the themes to be really surface level. All the dots were connected for the reader leaving little to ponder when the book was finished, or even during reading. I have been surprised at all the accolades this book has received this year. While the themes are timely, I found very few of the quiet moments to be engaging because I felt like Jade was too self-aware. In contrast to some of the other readers, I did not find Jade’s development to be organic at all, but rather forced by fairly cliched circumstances (which, to be completely fair, were often addressed as cliches by Jade/the author).

    I am grateful to be able to read the detailed notes of everyone who truly enjoyed this book and deemed it’s writing to be on par with other potential Newbery candidates. It does make me want to read the book again to see if my perspective will shift with this in mind.

  5. Leonard Kim says:

    I just finished THE HATE U GIVE and THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET. One thing I would note in the Setting Criterion is that THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET and PIECING ME TOGETHER convey a strong, detailed, and familiar sense of location (Harlem and Portland respectively) whereas I noted on Goodreads that even though I just finished THE HATE U GIVE, I didn’t think I could say where it took place. Joe suggested in a reply that the vague setting is a strength, but personally I found it diminished the vividness and immediacy of THE HATE U GIVE. Then reflecting further, I realized this was something that probably unconsciously bothers me about Ghost and PATINA as well. (Does Reynolds specify a setting?) In the grand scheme of things, I think THE HATE U GIVE, PIECING ME TOGETHER, and PATINA are all comparably strong (and thus arguably none of them should win the Newbery though I liked them all). I don’t think THE STARS BENEATH OUR FEET is quite on their level, but it did do a great job with setting to the extent that I realized I missed that in THE HATE U GIVE and PATINA.

Speak Your Mind

*