What Lane?

What Lane?

Book - 2020
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"Biracial sixth-grader Stephen questions the limitations society puts on him after he notices the way strangers treat him when he hangs out with his white friends and learns about the Black Lives Matter movement." -- (Source of summary not specified)
Publisher: New York : Nancy Paulsen Books, [2020]
Branch Call Number: FICTION MAL
Characteristics: 125 pages ; 22 cm
ISBN: 9780525518433


From Library Staff

As a mom of a mixed-race boy, I knew I had to read this one...and it's a great story! It really captures the inner struggles of middle school kids trying to find their place in this world. I like how it asks some tough questions but also provides some answers and actions for kids who want to make... Read More »

I rooted for Stephen the whole way through. I like how this book asks some tough questions but also provides some answers and actions for kids who want to make the world a better place for everyone. Recommended by Caitlin S.

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Apr 27, 2021

This is an awesome, short middle grade book that is destined to be a staple in classrooms for years to come!

It features three boys: Wes, who's Black, Stephen, who's mixed, and Dan, who's white. Stephen is the glue that holds these boys together, but he doesn't know it yet and he's struggling with trying to find his own "lane" in 6th grade.

He attends a basketball game and buys a "What Lane?!" bracelet after a player, Marshall Carter, scores from just about anywhere. He wants to believe his father, who's told him the world is his to discover, but he's increasingly noticing how different people look at him and treat him in different situations, and how they sometimes push him into a "lane" he doesn't want to be in.

With Dan, Stephen recites Black superheroes and watches Stranger Things. But Dan's cousin -- Chad -- is bad news, all around. Stephen doesn't know this, however, because Dan and Wes stopped talking a while ago, and Stephen sorta fell out of hanging around with Wes. Wes warns Stephen about Chad's racist attitudes and beliefs and how he suspects the boy will take things to a dangerous level. But Stephen is still torn about what to do, especially when Dan's involved, and he allows himself to be bullied into "Chad's lane" a few times too many.

A series of events lead Stephen to question which "lane" he's in, and not always by choice. There's the building super who looks at Stephen accusingly after the super's bike is stolen. The grocery store worker who accuses him of stealing a cookie (which he eats before paying for it) while ignoring Dan doing the exact same thing. The police officer who won't wave back and scowls instead.

Then Stephen visits the local high school and learns about the Black Lives Matter movement, and Tamir Rice, and listens in a class discussion of race while Wes and his friends recite the names of children killed by police: Lesandro Guzman-Feliz, 15, Trayvon Martin, 17, Michael Brown, 18, and more.

His mother's afraid he's growing up too fast, and doesn't want his father to discuss these things with him, but Stephen's father is determined to do better for his son than his father did for him, bottling all the hurt inside.

It all comes to a head in a most innocent (but dangerous!) way: an invitation to a haunted house for Halloween.

I won't spoil the ending. The sheer complexity of this book, in a short 125 pages, is astounding and sure to be of high interest to middle grade readers. It's packed full of meaning and would make a fantastic jumping off point for conversations around identity and racial injustice in English and Social Studies in middle school.


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