Sun Keep Rising
Kristen R. Lee
Young Adult Contemporary
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Publishing Date: January 24, 2023
Page count: 240 pages
Suggested Reading Age: 14 – 17 years
ISBN-10: 0593309200 / ISBN-13: 978-0593309209
When rent increases put a teen mom at risk of losing her home, she resorts to a dangerous game to keep her family afloat. But all games have consequences, and this isn’t one she can afford to lose. A gripping story about race, income instability, and the strength it takes to survive from a critically acclaimed author.
Kristen R. Lee is a miraculous story weaver-Mahogany L. Browne, author of Vinyl Moon
B’onca always knew how to get by. And then her daughter is born. She wouldn’t trade Mia for anything, but there is never enough cash to go around. When their gentrifying Memphis neighborhood results in higher prices and then an eviction notice, B’onca’s already fragile world spirals. Desperate to make things right, B’onca forges a risky plan to help pay the bills. But one wrong move could cost B’onca–and her family–everything.
From the celebrated author of Required Reading for the Disenfranchised Freshman comes a compelling story about a teen mom navigating income disparity and racial inequality, and defying challenges to protect those she loves.
Content Warning: gentrification
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The gripping story of a young teenage mother who’ll do anything to keep her small family together.
Sun Keep Rising is a riveting contemporary young adult novel about a teenage mother trying to keep body and soul, and family together. With its fresh and genuine voice, I was immediately drawn into B’onca’s life. As a mother, I could relate to many of her new mom problems, which, in her case, were exacerbated by her young age, limited resources and options.
The character of B’onca was so real, a typical teen. You could feel her vitality and personality, keeping her hopeful for the future but realistic no matter what came her way. Her story is a familiar one: a bullying boyfriend, a first sexual experience, and an unplanned pregnancy. Then there is the ultimate betrayal of him accusing her of sleeping around (he was the one doing that) and his cowardly abandonment. But worse by far was the subplot involving her mother. It was painful reading.
The story has so much going on, and the level of tension throughout the book is gripping! Not only is there the teen mother and her family storyline, but there is the subplot of the changes occurring in the neighborhood. The impact of gentrification is far-reaching. It doesn’t just affect the single property owner selling out to the new buyers. A snowball effect creates significant collateral damage to those remaining behind; local businesses are bought out or sold, employees lose their jobs and have to make ends meet in the lull before new businesses can open, and prices increase for everything. In addition, readers get a glimpse into the illegal businesses that flourish in the shadows of depressed areas of the city. However, all is not completely grim. There is a hopeful note in the story coming from the feeling of community and family running strong through the Ridgecrest neighborhood, where everyone knows everyone else’s name and has their back.
I recommend SUN KEEP RISING to readers of contemporary young adult fiction, especially those who may have read and appreciated the 70s novel, Go Ask Alice.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kristen R. Lee is a native of Memphis Tennessee, whose love of books stems from her grandmother who was a school teacher. After graduating with a bachelor’s in communication from MTSU, she began to draft her first novel which focuses on systemic racism and Black culture. Growing up in Memphis, a majority Black city, writing stories that reflect her upbringing is what she strives to do. When she’s not writing, you can find her on twitter sharing memes about not writing.
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