Your Quarters Worth

Your LATE TO THE PARTY Quarter’s Worth

Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Anyone following Your Quarter’s Worth knows I’m a sucker for quality young adult fiction. There’s something about the genre’s innocence and simplicity that keeps readers coming back again and again.

I’ve got a middle-aged reader at home that’s an even more avid reader than me, so naturally the recommendations keep flowing in. One such recent You should read this tasked me with reading the novel Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia.

So how does Tristan Strong hold up? Keep reading to find out. . .

Tristan Strong is a pre-adolescent young man from Chicago. He’s a third generation boxer that doesn’t have the skills of his ex-champ father or the grit of his ornery grandad, who unfortunately doesn’t hesitate to remind the boy. After losing his best friend in a tragic bus accident and subsequently losing his first bout in the ring, Tristan’s parents decide to send him for a month to his grandparents’ farm in Alabama.

Imagining Tristan’s teenage rage and the depression over blaming himself for his pal’s death mixed with staying with his folk story-telling grandma and tough-love grandpop would be a compelling story in its own right, but that’s just the beginning! Tristan brings his deceased best friend’s story journal with his grief along for the trip. As soon as the car arrives on the old farm strange things start to occur.

Tristan brings his deceased best friend’s story journal with his grief along for the trip. The notebook begins glowing green as the car crosses onto his grandparents’ property, dreams start to feel too real, almost like visions, and a strange sticky doll attacks Tristan while he’s sleeping in bedwait. . .what?

Things only get stranger as Tristan literally breaks the veil between our world and the one comprised of all folk stories.

Kwame Mbalia weaves a fantastical modern-day epic featuring heroes and characters from African and African-American historical folklore. John Henry and Brer Rabbit turn out to be real–sort of. As do Gum Baby, High John, Anansi the Spider, and many others in this interdimensional adventure.

The book’s non-stop action and laughs bring to mind modern classic series, such as Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, while feeling significantly more culturally diverse, sensitive, and important. Immediately, I recognized the monsters and villains drawn from the African American slave experience as seen through the eyes of its victims.

The story was relatable without being overtly obvious or preachy.

So how many quarters for Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky?

Tristan Strong scores a perfect TWO QUARTERS!

The perspective and quality of the book were top notch.

The story was beautiful and well told. The previously unfamiliar elements and characters added to the richness of the universe it creates. I appreciated learning while being entertained.

Luckily, Mbalia already published two sequels, Tristan Strong Destroys the World and Tristan Strong Keeps Punching, so my child and I can continue the journey and share in more rich cultural experiences.

Well, YA fans and geeks, that’s another LATE TO THE PARTY Quarter’s Worth. I hope the recommendation works out for you as it did for me and my kid.

I’ll be back next week with a TV series you might have a missed, but shouldn’t have and watching it might make the difference between where you end up in the afterlife.

I’ll see you then.

Review by John Andreula

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