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What Lane? Paperback – 11 May 2021

4.8 out of 5 stars 102 ratings

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Product description


* “In an NYC landscape deeply shaped by race, sixth grader Stephen struggles to speak his piece. . . . Maldonado pursues a story about biracial boyhood, healthy friendships, and self-discovery while gesturing toward the influence of social movements like Black Lives Matter in reshaping what accountable friendship looks like. Voiced in the creative language of NYC youth, the novel models what it means to embrace the power of self-awareness and relationships built on mutual respect. Bridges everyday racism and accountable allyship with sincerity.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Engaging, timely novel. . . . Maldonado (Tight) paints a vivid, relatable picture of an adventurous boy learning the rewards and dangers of straying out of his lane against the backdrop of an unfair system that could see him killed or arrested for the behaviors his white peers easily engage in. The characters are warmly realistic, by turns impulsive and regretful. In relatively few words, Maldonado elucidates matters related to racial profiling, police violence against black people, and allyship, all through the eyes of a brave kid trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs.”—Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Maldonado depicts his young hero’s awakening to the ugly realities of contemporary American racism. Caught between his best friend Dan, and Dan’s racist cousin Chad; straddling the line between his overprotective, naive white mother and his realist, all-too-aware Black father; and doing his best to integrate his middle school friend group, biracial Stephen is finding it tricky to ‘stay wide in all lanes.’ . . . Maldonado uses a biracial adolescent boy’s perspective to draw his readers into an engaging story of identity and tough choices that will appeal to middle schoolers everywhere. An ideal choice for school book clubs and advisory.”—School Library Journal, starred review

“Sixth-graders Stephen and Dan are so close that they could be twins aside from their race difference, but that difference is beginning to matter to the outside world. . . . Presents an honest account of a Black boy who has to grow up faster than his white friends, all while wishing his friend groups could just be together regardless of race. . . . Makes the point that the frequency of racist encounters means they’re daunting yet mundane, and there is an interesting dynamic between Stephen’s Black father and white mother, who both want to protect their son but take different approaches. His father and friend Wes both tie in real life details about current events such as Tamir Rice’s shooting and the Black Lives Matter movement, which adds to the authenticity and could make this selection a discussion starter.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

About the Author

Torrey Maldonado (torreymaldonado.com), also the author of the critically acclaimed Tight and Secret Saturdays, is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised. His books reflect his students' and his experiences.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Nancy Paulsen Books (11 May 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 144 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0525518452
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0525518457
  • Reading age ‏ : ‎ 10 - 13 years
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 119 g
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 13.03 x 0.94 x 19.69 cm
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ India
  • Customer Reviews:
    4.8 out of 5 stars 102 ratings

About the author

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Torrey Maldonado was born and raised in Brooklyn, growing up in the Red Hook housing projects. He has been a teacher for New York City public schools for nearly 25 years and his fast-paced, compelling stories are inspired by his and his students’ experiences. His popular novels for young readers include What Lane?, which garnered many starred reviews and was cited by Oprah and the New York Times for being an essential book to discuss racism and allyship; Tight, which won the Christopher Award, was an ALA Notable Book, and an NPR and Washington Post Best Book of the Year; and his very first novel, Secret Saturdays which has been in print for over ten years. He regularly contributes to anthologies with other diverse, literary all-stars. Connect on Instagram and Twitter @torreymaldonado.

Customer reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
4.8 out of 5
102 global ratings

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Top reviews from other countries

Robert Bartlett
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
Reviewed in Canada on 23 April 2020
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Jessica L. Bock
5.0 out of 5 stars A heartwarming story of heartbreaking times we live in...for ALL Kids, Grades 5+
Reviewed in the United States on 21 June 2020
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3 people found this helpful
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5.0 out of 5 stars What Lane? A must read for grades 5+
Reviewed in the United States on 23 May 2020
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5 people found this helpful
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Sharon Velez
5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and fun middle grade book
Reviewed in the United States on 18 November 2021
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5.0 out of 5 stars Informative and fun middle grade book
Reviewed in the United States on 18 November 2021
"We can't do everything our white friends can. You have to think twice before you act once."

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado is a coming of age middle grade story about being Black, brown or mixed and the ways that Black and brown boys have to navigate the world through the perceptions of their identities. Stephen uses the concept of "lanes" as a metaphor to explain how he navigates the world between two identities, how he swerves through life trying to avoid the racism spewed his way and to avoid the trappings of being put in the box that the world assigns to Black and Brown people.

I really related to Stephen's inner struggles, the struggle to be seen as human not just a color, the struggle to maintain his innocence in a world that doesn't see Black and brown kids as children, the struggle to use his voice and the struggle to not be enough of either identity. A lot of my life even today has been spent navigating multiple worlds and trying to find my place in it. Learning how to use your voice as a Black or brown person is always a challenge because of the fear that you will be met with violence or even lose your life. The story helps you see how Black and brown kids are forced to grow up way before they need to as a survival skill. He also shows how parenting styles recreate oppressive systems. Torrey also shows us that it shouldn't be our sole responsibility to dismantle the racism we didn't create.

Torrey really does a good job of presenting some heavy themes in a lighthearted and relatable way. I loved that this story was oozing with NYC flavor, especially Brooklyn slang. The conversations Stephen had with his dad were so similar to conversations I've had to have with my own children. I really loved this story and what it had to say about the importance of kids being given the tools and information they need in order to make their own decisions and find their voices. I also loved that it showed the importance of having a solid support network at home and in school. This book would be great for educators and any adult wanting to explore conversations about racism and identity with youth.
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Concerned Parent
1.0 out of 5 stars Awful Racist Mindless Drivel
Reviewed in the United States on 5 December 2020
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4 people found this helpful
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