Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bookanista Review: Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Today's Bookanista Review is long overdue. I scored an ARC for Jewell Parker Rhodes' NINTH WARD back in July (yes--JULY!) from Jennifer Hunt at her Little Brown panel at SCBWI LA. I've been dying to read it ever since (you should've heard the way she gushed about it). But the last few months have been so crazy/hectic/I-haven't-had-time-to-eat-sleep-breathe that I just found the time to read it Tuesday. And boy have I been missing out!

But before I get to the gushing, here's the lovely cover:

And the official blurb:

Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. She doesn't have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya's visions show a powerful hurricane--Katrina--fast approaching, it's up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.

Ninth Ward is a deeply emotional story about transformation and a celebration of resilience, friendship, and family--as only love can define it.

Okay, NOW I can get to the gushing. :)

Let me put it this way: I read this book in one sitting. It kept me up till 1:30am--on a night when I was sooooooooooooo tired. But I couldn't put it down--which, I must admit, completely surprised me.

I mean, I'd expected to love the writing. I'd planned on finding beautiful prose and fabulous characters (both of which it definitely delivers).'s about Hurricane Katrina. I kinda know how that story goes, yanno? The hurricane hitting. The levies failing. The tragedy and destruction. I watched it all unfold on the news as it happened. So I wasn't expecting a book on the topic to cause that OMG-I-can't-put-this-down-I-have-to-know-what's-going-to-happen-next reaction. But it SO did. 

It kind of reminded me of when my friends dragged me to see Titanic all those years ago (yes--dragged. I might have been the only teenage girl not swept up in Leo-Mania.) My thought was: THREE HOURS??? BUT I ALREADY KNOW HOW IT'S GOING TO END!!!! So I was stunned to find myself sitting on the edge of my seat wondering when the iceberg was going to hit. 

I think when you're really invested in the characters, knowing what's coming actually increases the tension--because you know the terrible things that are about to happen to them and you want to make sure they make it through okay. That was definitely the case with this book, at least. 

I loved Lanesha. She's a smart, sweet, wonderful little girl, and it was heartbreaking watching her world get torn apart by the storm. Especially because you really get to see how friendly and supportive her community in the Ninth Ward is, the way all the neighbors know each other and share with each other. Really makes you feel the loss of a place like that, all the friends and families scattered--if they made it out safely. (Oh, and yeah, after reading the chapters during the storm I can say for a fact that I will NOT be moving to a hurricane zone anytime soon.) 

But it was also heartwarming, watching Lanesha use her bravery and resourcefulness to fight her way through the chaos and flooding. Watching her never give up, never put herself ahead of others, never stop to feel sorry for herself. I'm sure there are plenty of real life Lanesha's out there who fought the same fight during Katrina, and I really hope they tell their stories someday. It's an amazing legacy of survivors.

So yeah, in case you can't tell--I loved this book. It's page-turning, elegant, and unlike most other things I've read. (It even has kind of a Sixth Sense vibe going on.) Definitely worth checking out when you have time. (It's available for purchase now) And share it with your kids. Make sure they understand what Hurricane Katrina was really all about. What was really lost. And what it took to fight through.

For more awesome book recommendations, check out what my fellow Bookanistas are up do today:

Elana Johnson marvels over The Mockingbirds
Lisa and Laura Roecker dish about The Love Goddess' Cooking School
Christine Fonseca is nostalgic over books she loved growing up
Megan Miranda adores The Adoration of Jenna Fox
Myra McEntire raves about NetGalley
Kirsten Hubbard considers the good, the bad and the ugly impact of reviews
Bethany Wiggins can't get enough of Black Hole Sun
Jamie Harrington is thrilled about The Secret Society of the Pink Crystal Ball

Oh, and one last aside: I'm being interviewed over at Jessica Lawlor's blog today. So if you want to learn a little bit more about me--or just feel like taking pity on me and stopping by so the post won't look too pathetic--you should hop over there and check it out. Comments are *always* appreciated. :)


  1. I love when you get some great books to check out after attending a conference. I haven't heard of this one. I love that despite knowing what happens on a larger scale, you still read on because you care about the MC. You don't know what's going to happen on their journey and have to find out if the character's been well-crafted. Thanks so much, Shannon!

    Marissa :)

  2. I hadn't heard of this one. Thanks so much for sharing. I'll check out your interview.

  3. OOHh......Now I REALLY want to read this one! Great review

  4. Hmm. If only there were enough hours in a lifetime for all this great reading you bring to our attention! Thanks Shannon.

  5. What a lovely book and fab review!!! The cover alone is magical! Thanks for the info! Take care

  6. Great review! I hadn't heard of this book, but I'll be sure to check it out now. Thanks!

  7. hi miss shannon! this sounds like a really good book. book reviews are a really big help for me so i could know if i wanna read that book. this is one i think i could like to read.
    ...hugs from lenny

  8. Oohh realistic true life events fiction... I don't think that's a real genre but I'm going to call it that anyway.

    Sounds very cool. You get the best arcs.

  9. Never heard of this before but it sounds good.

  10. Living in Houston I sort of have an insider's view of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

    And Hurricane Ike wasn't a lot of fun either. But every place has its drawbacks. If you grow up in a place where hurricanes are commonplace (like earthquakes to Cali) then you just don't think about it much. Until a bad one hits, of course. It was a bad time all around. Sounds like a good book.

  11. This sounds fantastic! I love the gushing - it must be good!

  12. Awesome! Another MG to add to my list. Great review, Shannon!

  13. This is such a great book...I bought it for my mom's boyfriend's little girl and she just loved it!

    Thanks for spreading the word about this awesome book with your amazing review, Shannon.

  14. WOW this looks amazing!! I'm not a huge MG reader, but I will definitely put this on my list!

  15. Dude, I was so sucked in by your review! That was awesome. Your enthusiasm shined through. This reminds me a bit of a younger version of DARK WATER because you know of the disaster that is going to happen, but you're not sure what all will transpire before and after.

    And man, did I love Titanic. I felt the same way. I so did not want to see that movie, but I sobbed like a baby at the end. Anyway...super review, Shannon!


Yay-I love comments! Thank you so much! (But please remember to keep your comments spoiler-free. Also, I try to keep this a happy, positive place. Friendly debate is fine, but always be kind to each other). <3