Fabiola Toussant is excited to come to the United States with her Mother and start a new more glamorous life. Her Aunt that lives in America has been sending money to Fabiola and her Mother for years so that they can live in a safe apartment and that Fabiola can go to a Private School where they teach English.
But after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by U.S. immigration, leaving Fabiola to navigate her loud American cousins, Chantal, Donna, and Princess; the grittiness of Detroit’s streets, and the complete culture shock of American materialism. The US is not everything that Fab thought it would be. There are drugs, murders, and complicated inner-city-school hierarchies to navigate. All of this combined with Fabiola wanting to do anything in her power to get her mother released from the Immigration Detention Center that she is being held in causes her to immerse herself into a world that she never thought she would.
Zoboi’s prose is intriguing and slowly pulls you into the story (I’ll be honest the first thirty or so pages didn’t intrigue me). At first it’s difficult to insert yourself into Fab’s state of mind. Her mother has been suddenly separated from her, OK. She is in a new foreign country for the first time, OK. Her Aunt and Cousins are loud and kind of mean to her, OK. She goes from the warm weather of Haiti to the cold starkness of Detroit, OK.
All of these things don’t pull you in right away. It happens slowly as Fabiola slowly acclimates to her new world you slowly acclimate to her. Before you know it you are entrenched in and understand her feelings. You feel the loneliness she has without her mother. You feel her confusion about the new social climate of High School in America (in the ghetto of Detroit, no less). You feel her crush on the too-good-to-be-true boy Kasim. But in the end she wraps you into her story and believe me- it’s a good one.