Blended by Sharon Draper. Simon and Schuster Kids, 2018. 978-1442495005
11-year-old Isabella’s parents divorced when she was 6. It’s always been hard, but since her dad moved back to Ohio and she’s splitting her time between two houses, it’s even harder. It feels like she’s being asked to be two separate people. Izzy lives in a small house with her pale blond mother, spending time at the Waffle House where she works and at the bowling alley her mother’s boyfriend manages and plays a Casio keyboard set up on the dining room table. Isabella lives in a large house with her African-American lawyer father, his girlfriend, and her (super cool!) teenage son. Isabella has music room with a baby grand piano all her own and lessons twice a week.
If my friend Nakenya hadn’t warned me otherwise, I would have expected this book to be mostly about Isabella’s mixed-race identity. There is some of that, as people ask her whether she considers herself white or Black (yes), and is treated differently in stores at the mall when she goes in with just her Black best friend Imani, rather than in a group with Imani and their other best friend, who is white, as well as some racial incidents.
But a lot is just about the conflict of two parents who fight over her and don’t realize that they are pressuring her to be different people, and the feelings that come up when she realizes that her parents getting more serious about their new partners meaning that they will never get back together again. And the musician in me was very happy as Isabella comes to embrace playing both Clementi and more modern, swinging African-American music. This is one for any kid who struggles with multiple identities, and I had to wait several months to read it because it’s been so very popular at my library.