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Guys, this is exciting. My first ever book review! And this one is a great book to start with. This book was sent to me for free in exchange for a review, but in no way have I been coerced to give a positive review. This review is my 100% honest opinion.
The book: No One Ever Asked
The author: Katie Ganshert
Release date: April 3rd, 2018
This book follows the stories of three women as both their communities and personal lives go through a pivotal time. Crystal Ridge is a school known for it’s academic quality and sports prestige. It’s also exclusive. At least, it is until an impoverished school loses it’s accreditation and Crystal Ridge is forced to open its doors. For the first time, black students are joining white students in Crystal Ridge’s classrooms, and not everyone is happy about it. As two worlds converge, three women become hopelessly entangled in each other’s stories as they fight to make sense of their own.
Camille Gray is supposed to be the picture perfect woman. Her husband is an executive, her children are smart and successful, and she’s a long standing member of the PTA. Except her marriage isn’t everything she wants the world to think it is. With the relationship between her and her husband falling apart, Camille’s world is turning into a chaotic mess. To top it off, she is painted as a racist by the media when she speaks up at a school meeting to say she doesn’t want Crystal Ridge to welcome students from other districts. Camille is adamant that she is not prejudice, but is she?
Jen Covington has wanted to be a mother for as long as she can remember, and now she is finally getting the chance. She and her husband are adopting a beautiful little girl from Africa named Jubilee. Jen soon finds out, though, that motherhood isn’t what she thought it would be. With Jubilee’s frequent outbursts and lack of social skills, Jen starts to ask herself a terrifying question: is she cut out to be a mother?
Anaya Jones has always wanted to be a teacher, but she didn’t want to teach at a fancy school like Crystal Ridge. She wanted to teach African-American students in her own poverty ridden community. The only position she can get, though, is at Crystal Ridge where she becomes a black teacher in a sea of white students. When Crystal Ridge is forced to open its doors to other districts, though, Anaya gets her wish to teach African-American students. Soon there are questions raised as to whether Anaya is giving special treatment to black students and leaving out the white children. Before long, Anaya might have to ask herself a question she never thought she’d ask: has she become a racist?
As tension and emotions flare, a community will have to decide if they choose to pull together or fall apart.
Wow, this book was a whirlwind of complex ideas and thought provoking situations. I hardly know where to start!
This is a great book. I learned a lot about other cultures and life situations, and I thought a lot about things I had never thought about before. When I finished the book, I felt like I had grown as a person.
One thing I was worried about was the book having three main characters. I’ve read other books that switch view points, and generally, I’m not a fan of them. One person ends up being more interesting than the rest, and I end up wanting to skip half the chapters just to see what happens to that one person. That was not the case with this book, though. Ganshert did a remarkable job of making all three view points interesting and unique. I enjoyed reading about all three women, and I didn’t feel more invested in one than the others.
The characters were all unique and fascinating. There weren’t any ‘perfect’ characters, which was fantastic. Every character had flaws and pitfalls, and they all had their own voices.
The plot kept moving at a good pace for the most part. There were a couple slow areas, but there weren’t any parts that were completely dragging. Almost every chapter advanced the story in a way that wrapped me tighter in the plot.
How Did This Book Deal With the Issue of Racism?
Ganshert did a great job talking about racism candidly. She explored cultural differences that make every person (not just race) unique and different. She also delved into the scary territory of racists who do not know they are racist. In fact, by the end of the book, it appeared that everyone had a prejudice of some sort.
I’m going to be honest, now. At several spots in the book, I felt offended. It was during those offenses, though, that I began to think more deeply about the issues discussed in this novel. I began to question my beliefs and even myself. This novel isn’t rude or hateful (although some of the characters are!), but it was very point blank about it’s characters view points. I must say that I don’t agree with all the characters in this book, but that’s okay. It would be pretty boring if we all agreed on everything, wouldn’t it? In the end, I was able to see not only the different view points, but also what led up to those differences in opinion. It was pretty fascinating, really.
What I Didn’t Like About This Book
While this book had a lot of unique aspects and view points, it was stereotypical at times. Here is what was going on as best as I can tell:
The story takes place in a large town (big enough to have multiple school districts), but everything is very segregated. The school in the poor district is made up of all black students, and the school in the Crystal Ridge districts is all white kids except a few lucky Asians. It appears that although this story is set in present day, there isn’t a single black person that has managed to move out of the ‘ghetto’ area of town, and there isn’t a single white person who is a meth addict and lives in a trailer. Also, every cop mentioned is racist and abusive to black people.
Every white person is very well to do. That doesn’t seem realistic to me. Every race has at least some percentage of its population made up of criminals and substance addicts. Although most of the middle class might have been made up of white people, having at least one white person that doesn’t have an almost perfect life would have added some realism.
Every black person is poor and struggling. It would have been great to see at least one black individual who had become a doctor or lawyer, or even just managed to move out of the ‘ghetto’ side of town. They’re also all good at sports. Okay, maybe not all of them, but a subplot to the story is that the black students take all the star positions away from the white students when they transfer to the school. Maybe this doesn’t make the book ‘bad’, but it definitely wasn’t unexpected or surprising.
Every cop is brutal and bigoted. I’m not going to pretend that all cops are fantastic people because that would be ridiculous. Yet, I think it’s pretty safe to say they aren’t all evil, either. There are only three cops mentioned in this book, but they are all revolting. The first two are mentioned as being the men who brutally attack a black man as they drag him away from his screaming relatives. Apparently, the black man is innocent as well. The last cop mentioned is a very rude fellow who profiles a black teen and breaks several laws trying to find a way to arrest the kid. While police brutality is an important issue that should be discussed, it would have been great to see a different side of things as well.
In fact, that’s exactly what I think this book is missing: different sides. Everything is just a little too typical for my taste. We never see a white drug dealer, black doctor, or nice cop. There isn’t a lot of variety in that way. A lot of this just has to do with personal taste. My favorite books are ones that show common issues from new angles and perspectives. I love to be surprised and to see multiple sides of problems.
Did This Book Change Me?
I’m glad to say that it did.
Although the characters had vastly different opinions on the same problem, I was able to see and understand all of their view points. My eyes were opened to how much cultural differences can have an impact on how we see the world. After reading this book, I understand on a deeper level why people disagree so often. Also, I felt a deep sense of conviction. For a long time, I’ve judged everyone as if they were raised in the same culture or even family. I now look at everyone as individuals with varying pasts that affect the way they see the world and themselves.
Would I Recommend This Book?
I already have! I had my mother read it, and she loved it. She read the whole book in two or three days. If anyone is interested in social issues such as racism, this book is great for you. Even if you aren’t particularly interested in the subject of racism, this is a great novel. The writing is smooth and easy to get into, the story is engaging, and the characters are pretty ‘real’ feeling. Not only will you enjoy this read, you’ll also be thinking about its concepts for days.
Overall: 4 out of 5
Characters: 4 out of 5
Plot: 4 out of 5
Importance: 5 out of 5
Communication: 3.7 out of 5
What Are You Reading?
Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear about the latest book you’ve been devouring.