Book Review: Bronx Masquerade, by Nikki Grimes

I never seemed to fit in…
People hate me…
No one understands who I really am…
They all think of me as something else, which is not who I really am…
I wish they could see me as what I am…

     Have you ever felt as though you didn’t belong because people judged you based on what you did and not on your true self? Don’t worry, it’s not just you. Devon, Shelia, Raymond, and fifteen other teenagers have felt it too. That is, until they took a class that changed their lives forever.
Their group of eighteen contains a teen mom, a shy artist, a girl who thinks that changing her name would change her identity, a really good basketball player, a guitarist preacher, a dyslexic, and many other people that are underestimated because of something about them. However, their high school English teacher convinces them to try out “Open Mike Friday,” where the class can go up and share a poem that they wrote. Soon, their stories unfold, first with a story through their view, them a short poem that shows the self beneath them.
One such poem explains the book perfectly, as it is by a jock who loves poetry, and wrote the title as Bronx Masquerade:

“…[T]here’s more to Devon than jump shot and rim… I dare you to peep behind these eyes, discover the poet in tough guy disguise. Don’t call me jump shot. My name is Surprise.” (Page 32)

I liked this book a lot, and felt overwhelmed with awe by the time I got to the end. It was well written, and Grimes had a creative style of presenting the plot, with a short story of one of the eighteen characters, then a poem written by them.
Additionally, the book sets a situation with kids who have some type of modern teenage problem, being anything from being way too pretty, to having a drunk dad who beats their child up. Either way, some kids could find comfort in this book, knowing that they found kids their age who share their feelings of a problem similar to theirs.
If you are a poetry fan or a poet yourself, there are more than eighteen poems in the book, all well written with a deep meaning.
Most importantly, these kids never gave up, even when their problems were at the peak of being the worst. The book teaches us to never give up.
I’d ask you to try it out yourself; you might feel a connection with one of the characters.
-Megan V., 9th grade

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