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Book Review: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson (4/5)

5 Jun

When my book club picked this title, I immediately looked to see if the audiobook was available. It makes my life a lot easier to have an audiobook than to squeeze a physical book in. I thought it was a mistake to see that it was only 2:30 long. But it’s true! This little gem is a slim book but it’s also really short, written more in verse than in prose. I knocked it out in under a week.

Cover image via Goodreads

Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson

Summary from Goodreads:

Running into a long-ago friend sets memories from the 1970s in motion for August, transporting her to a time and a place where friendship was everything—until it wasn’t. For August and her girls, sharing confidences as they ambled through neighborhood streets, Brooklyn was a place where they believed that they were beautiful, talented, brilliant—a part of a future that belonged to them.

But beneath the hopeful veneer, there was another Brooklyn, a dangerous place where grown men reached for innocent girls in dark hallways, where ghosts haunted the night, where mothers disappeared. A world where madness was just a sunset away and fathers found hope in religion.

This was my first Jacqueline Woodson book so I wasn’t sure what to expect with the writing style. I was surprised that the audiobook was only 2.5 hours and when I heard how lyrical the writing was, it made more sense to me. I loved listening to this book and getting to enjoy the sound of it as much as I enjoyed the story. I don’t know how typical August’s story was for the time and place or if she had a unique story from her childhood, but it felt like a story of the city, not just of four girls. I think Woodson did a wonderful job of winding these three girls stories together and showing how the world could rip them apart.

The characters felt very real to me. I remember as a girl feeling unstoppable and powerful like August and her friends. I remembering wanting boys to leave us alone because being a girl was too much fun to confuse with boys and feelings. I enjoyed seeing how life tore the girls apart. Sometimes it feels like that happens so slowly that you can’t pinpoint why it happens and I felt Woodson gave us reasons but also showed the slow degradation of friendships.

August was my favorite character. This is probably biased because she narrated. It felt safe to pick her as a favorite because we know from the beginning that she goes on to have a good life. I’m always sad when my favorite character has a bad fate in the end but August is an educated world traveler. I wished there was a little more about her brother because his life seemed to parallel his sister’s in the end, being what she would have if she’d stayed in Brooklyn. I thought he helped to emphasize that she’d taken control of her life and made a point of making it different from the path that was set for her.

I related to the characters sense of youthful invincibility. I remember feeling like I could do anything and the world would bend to my will. It didn’t last long and in retrospect, it seems stupid, but at the time, nothing could stop me. I’d forgotten that feeling before I read this book. It’s great that Woodson is able to remember it.

Jacqueline Woodson
Image via NPR

I enjoyed how Woodson slowly revealed the truth about August’s mother. I had suspicions, but I was afraid to guess for sure. The ways she and her brother reacted to her father’s girlfriends was very moving for me considering August’s memories of her mother and how close she kept her to her heart. I had to go back and reference my physical copy because I tuned out for one second to the audiobook and missed it and knew it had been something big.

Hearing about the girls drifting apart was hard. The life choices and happenings that drew them apart were hard to process. Some of them were happy, others sad, but the grief of losing a friend always overshadowed it. Though you couldn’t focus on that, because something bigger was going on. Losing a friend was just a side effect.

The audiobook I listened to was narrated by Robin Miles. I loved how she read the lyrical words of this book and I felt she gave the story the weight it needed. It was an emotional read and Miles felt the words and shared the story in a wonderful way.

The world changes forever when we’re young and have to grow up. It can be a very trying time for young girls who have to realize not only that the world is cruel, but that it is inherently unfair. These girls learned that hard message, each in their own way. Boys change into men and you never look at them quite the same. You change into a woman and you start to see yourself the way others do.

Writer’s Takeaway: This book had some of the lyricism I normally associate with poetry but it was clearly a novel. Woodson did a great job of combining what I’m assuming is an inclination toward poetry with a long-form novel. Though the result is short, it’s very impactful and a ton of fun to read. Poetic prose is great for an emotional book and really helps pack a punch.

This was a fun, quick read and I’m looking forward to talking with my book club about it. Four out of Five Stars.

This book fulfills the 1960-1979 time period of the When Are You Reading? Challenge.

Until next time, write on.

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Related Posts:
Review of “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson | Rhapsody in Books Weblog
Book of the Week: Another Brooklyn- Jacqueline Woodson | Advanced Readers Edition
REVIEW: Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson | Introspective Yarns