American Street Review

American Street by Ibi Zoboi: My Review

Rating: 4/5 stars

So trying to come to America from the wrong country is a crime?

American Street was a fantastic YA novel that tells the story of a young girl's experience of immigration, as well as tackling some other gritty topics including drug use, domestic violence and slut shaming. Our main character is Fabiola Toussaint who was born in America but spent almost all of her life in Haiti with her mother, but when they try to travel to Detroit to join Fabiola's Aunt Jo and three cousins (Chantal, Pri and Donna) her mother is detained at JFK by US immigration so Fabiola has to continue on her own. 

From the very beginning, I felt so much sympathy for Fabiola as she is faced with the challenge of finding herself in a new country, living with family she discovers she knows very little about, while constantly fearing for her mother. Through Fabiola, Zoboi captures the disconcerting experience of getting accustomed to a new way of life that contrasts so heavily to what you are used to, and most importantly the realisation that America is not the paradise that many immigrants dream it will be. In fact, the events in Detroit become more brutal and twisted as the book goes on, but in the midst of all this there is a web of complex female relationships as well as an adorable romance, both of which I really enjoyed. Zoboi even brings a touch of magical realism to the story surrounding Fabiola's Haitian Voudou faith which I think worked really well and made the story representative of the importance of culture - despite all the other alterations in your life, your culture will always remain woven into everything you do.

The novel is mostly told from Fabiola's POV but we also get the occasional short chapter from other characters which I always love in books because giving these secondary characters the spotlight for a short time makes them more than just good guys or bad guys, but real people. Being able to access their experiences of immigration as well as Fabiola's definitely enhanced the story, and I actually ended up wishing Fabiola's narrative wasn't the main focus as I thought her family were a lot more intriguing, in particular her three cousins, so I would have preferred to get more inside their heads. I also thought the writing could have been a bit smoother, and at times it didn't feel as though there was a lot of depth to it, but overall I think Zoboi did a really great job with American Street and I very much enjoyed my time reading it.

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