By: Brenda Faye Collie
Publisher: Daylight Books
Publication Date: June 2011
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: December 2011
Loresha Evans is a young woman who knows what she wants. A junior in high school, she is growing up in the tough neighborhoods of Harlem. While the cards may be stacked against her, Loresha doesn’t let that stop her from aiming high and going for her dreams.
Within the first few pages of Almost A Senior, it quickly becomes apparent who holds the Evans family together. Each morning 16-year-old Loresha has to wake up her older brother Jason, while her mother, exhausted from another late night working at a local bar, is also reluctant to get up. As the story opens, Jason needs to wake up so he doesn’t miss the 9AM appointment with his probation officer and Mama Police (Loresha’s pet name for her mother) has a morning interview for a new, better job that Loresha found for her. Loresha herself has a very big day ahead of her – the winners of the recent election for student government at her high school will be announced. Loresha is hopeful that she just may be the new school president.
Loresha’s dream soon becomes a reality but she quickly learns that being the president of the student body isn’t all fun and games. While she knew that there would be hard work involved, she never thought that it might put her friendship with Kelita in jeopardy. Best friends since Head Start, Kelita has always had Loresha’s back and the two of them have been inseparable. But when Loresha becomes president, she’s suddenly thrust into the limelight and welcomed into the popular kids’ clique, but Kelita isn’t invited. A new boyfriend, Jamie, puts added pressure on the girls’ friendship and soon Loresha has to decide what is more important – her lifelong friend or popularity.
Narrated by Loresha, with an easy, conversational style, Almost A Senior is a quick moving teen story. We’re given a look at Loresha’s background via frequent flashbacks, learning about her mother’s hard choices, Loresha’s absent theatrical father, and Jason’s brush with the law. We’re also shown a family, that while not a typical nuclear family, is quite close in their own way. Yes, there’s a bit of yelling that goes on in the Evans’ house, with Mama Police watching over her children, to keep Jason out of jail, and Loresha away from boys who might get her pregnant, but there is also love. And through all their strife, this family is close. I particularly enjoyed the way Loresha and Jason interacted – the usual sibling rivalries and fights were there, but when Jason felt his old buddies might not have Loresha’s best interests at heart, he became very protective.
The highlight of Almost A Senior is Loresha herself. While full of turmoil, she is, overall, a very strong female protagonist. She is perpetually upbeat and positive and is not afraid to try something, even if others tell her it can’t be done. “We were two juniors [Loresha and Kelita] – 11th graders who dared to think they could change who could run for president in Horris High School.” (pg. 29) Although she does make some poor decisions along the way, high school is for learning and growing, which is exactly what Loresha does. While there are some minor editing issues with the text, the reader will come away from this book with a smile on her face.
Quill says: Teen readers will root for Loresha and see what life is really like for one young woman in Harlem.