Review: Tutored

Wendy 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 her mingling 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 race 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, stuck 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 center, 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.

This edgy story about a star-crossed couple features strong African American characters and sparkles with smart, quirky dialogue and fresh observations on social pressures and black-on-black prejudice. –From Amazon

There have been plenty of books and movies written about unlikely inter-racial couples and the prejudices they face, but when I saw the summary for Allison Whittenberg’s Tutored, I was intrigued by the premise of a black couple from different social classes. This is an issue that I’ve seen less often, and I looked forward to seeing how the relationship would play out. Unfortunately, I got just about everything about the book from the summary. The entire plot is laid out right there, and the interesting premise was not fleshed out enough to deliver on its promise.

What I thought was going to be a romance fell short, but still remained a somewhat interesting cultural study. I couldn’t understand why Wendy and Hakiam liked each other. They go from detesting each other to being in a relationship with very little transition period or any apparent chemistry. The relationships that each teen had with their family members were more interesting. Wendy’s father, in particular, was a believable character whose own hard work to escape the slums makes him look down on others of his race still stuck within them. He clearly wants the best for his daughter, but his prejudice and rigidness distances her from him.

This book was supposedly adapted from a script for a play, and I wonder if it would have been better remaining in that format. The issues and dialogue might have been more enjoyable, and the brevity and minimal development more understandable, if the story had been kept as a play. I wish I had liked this book better, but as I often say, just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean you won’t. This is a short, quick read, so it’ll be an easy one for you to pick up and try out yourself.

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