Keeping It Real (Hardcover)
Marigold Johnson is looking forward to a future full of family, friends, and fashion—but what will she do when it all explodes in her face? When she discovers that her entire life is a lie?
Paula Chase, the author of So Done, Dough Boys, and Turning Point, explores betrayal, conformity, and forgiveness—and what it means to be family—in this stand-alone novel perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds, Rebecca Stead, and Renée Watson.
Marigold Johnson can’t wait to attend a special program at her family’s business, Flexx Unlimited, for teens who love fashion. But Mari quickly realizes that she’s out of place compared to the three other trainees—and one girl, Kara, seems to hate her on sight.
As tension builds and the stakes at the program get higher, Mari uncovers exactly why Kara’s been so spiteful. She also discovers some hard truths about herself and her family.
Paula Chase explores complex themes centering on friendships, family, and what it means to conform to fit in. Keeping It Real is also a powerful exploration of what happens when parents pick and choose what they shield their children from. Timely and memorable, Paula Chase’s character-driven story touches on creativity, art, fashion, and music. A great choice for the upper middle grade audience.
About the Author
Paula Chase is the cofounder of The Brown Bookshelf, a site designed to increase awareness of African American voices writing for young readers. She lives in Annapolis, Maryland. Her novels include the acclaimed So Done and its companion, Dough Boys. www.paulachasehyman.com
“[At] Style High, a summer program designed to boost Black kids who are interested in careers in fashion design and styling . . . Mari’s in for an awakening ruder than she expected, one that will make her question what she knows about her family and background. The socio-economic and racial dynamics of this story add a compelling dimension . . . fits squarely into the lifestyles-of-the-rich-and-famous genre of realistic fiction that is just a touch fantastic with all its glitz and glamour. . . . A solid story of summer growth and exploration."
— Kirkus Reviews
“Fourteen-year-old Marigold Johnson is an aspiring fashion designer . . . Marigold’s summer only becomes more complicated when she uncovers a secret that turns her world completely upside down. Chase explores the strength and power of familial bonds and friendships when faced with hardships. The book also delves into the topics of conformity and identity and the weight that they hold on an adolescent’s sense of belonging. This will resonate with tweens and teens who are gaining an understanding of who they are and where they fit in.”
“Chase delivers a contemporary narrative on the complexities of race, class privilege, and interpersonal relationships, exploring being ‘Black enough’ through a flawed but resonant cast navigating empathy, friendship, and family.”
— Publishers Weekly
“Marigold Johnson fears she’s drifting apart from her best friend . . . So when Justice lands a fashion internship the summer after their eighth grade, she decides to join him. . . . Marigold’s blindness to her privilege and her effect on the other kids is painfully believable, and the revelation of the family secret is a real twist . . . Marigold’s emotional, often un-self-aware narration makes her story especially ripe for discussion about perspectives and relationship dynamics.”
— Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books
“Marigold ‘Mari’ Johnson is used to straddling two worlds. . . In an unexpected revelation, Mari is forced to rethink what privilege truly means, and how to handle it responsibly. . . . Chase turns her full attention to themes of classism within the Black community.”
— Horn Book Magazine