Recently someone at Westside Books asked if I wanted an arc of Michael Wenberg's upcoming YA release Stringz . Before I ask or accept an arcs, I try to make sure its a book I would like or would work for me. Sometimes this is easy, thanks to excerpts or online reviews.
With Stringz all I had to work with was the description at amazon. I liked the premise and the fact that the book featured Jace Adams,a mixed race teen. Jace's mother is Black is father White. Jace identifies more with his Black side, since he's never meant his father and when people look at him they see a Black teen.
I almost said, thanks but no thanks to Stringz because all three blurbs at Amazon are written by White men. A book featuring a kid of color written by a White author and blurbed with high praise by White readers is a red flag for me.
This one in particular was a big uh oh
"Stringz touched me very deeply. Michael Wenberg's done something very special, and has rare understanding of so many things--classical music, hip hop, black culture, and kids. His book has a huge heart, and a great sense of humor. And most of all, a deep love of all kinds of music." --Greg Sandow, Classical Music Critic for The Wall Street Journal, composer, writer and Juilliard Faculty member
After reading that my first thought was, what does Mr. Sandow know about Black culture? I know blurbs are all about great sound bites but that one should've be reconsidered - Hip hop and Black culture deleted.
Including a blurb by a Black person is no guarantee that I would enjoy Stringz but it would've made me more inclined to give it a go.
I wasn't worried about not liking Stringz. If I don't like a book no matter the source, I don't review it. However, I was worried I wouldn't find Jace Adams a believable character of color. In the past I've been critical of characters of color written by White authors I didn't believe in. I think its important that there be other points of view.
So, I had to ask myself, could I criticize Jace Adams if I found him lacking. Even after, I said yes I still wasn't sure. Since I enjoyed Stringz and liked Jace Adams, I still don't know the answer. Though I am hoping that when the time comes to be critical of an arc, I will do so without hesitation.