Keeping It Real by Paula Chase
Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion—but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie? Paula Chase, the acclaimed author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness—and what it means to be family—in this stand-alone novel. For fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Renée Watson.
Marigold Johnson has always lived between two worlds, the elite private school she attends and the Black working-class neighborhood where her parents grew up—the neighborhood they still support. It’s a dance she’s used to. Mari is looking forward to attending a special program at her family’s business, Def Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place with the three other trainees—and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight. As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.
Keeping it Real is about the pressure to conform; how Black people are expected to erase their Blackness in white spaces, and the cost of that erasure when they re-engage with Black communities. It’s also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from.
Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story shines with themes of friendship, creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.