ISBN #: 978-1612182681
Page Count: 132
Copyright: February 28, 2012
(Taken from Amazon)
When Dmitri, an eleven-year-old bird-watcher and math whiz, loses his mother to breast cancer, he is taken in by Mrs. Martin, an elderly white woman. Unaccustomed to the company of kids his own age, D struggles at school and feels like an outcast until a series of unexpected events changes the course of his life.
First, D is asked to tutor the school's basketball star, Hakeem, who will get benched unless his grades improve. Against the odds, the two boys soon realize they have something in common: they are both taunted by kids in school, and they both have a crush on Nyla, a beautiful but fierce eighth-grade girl. Then Nyla adopts D and invites him to join her entourage of "freaks." Finally, D discovers an injured bird and brings it home from the park.
D is stunned when the strange bird speaks to him and reveals that she is really a guiding spirit that has been held hostage by ghost soldiers who died in Brooklyn at the start of the American Revolution. As Nuru's chosen host, D must carry her from Brooklyn to the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan, but the ghost soldiers won't surrender their prize without a fight.
With the help of Hakeem and Nyla, D battles the Nether Beings who lurk underground, feeding off centuries of rage and pain. But it takes an unexpected ally to help the trio reach the ship that will deliver the innocent souls of the dead back to Nuru's realm.
An urban fantasy infused with contemporary issues and historical facts, Ship of Souls by Zetta Elliott will keep teen readers gripped until the very end.
Let's start with the positives ...
First, I love the cover; the coloring and title font draws the reader to it with it's slightly creepy aura. It and the description are what made me agree to review this book.
The concept of the book is sound and could be expanded into a full-length novel. Since the description states it's geared for teen readers, the length it is now is sufficient.
Now for the negatives ...
My biggest problem I have with this book is the use of the 'N' word ... we all know what that is, so I do not need to type it out. Although I detest this word used in any media, I can understand its use in certain books ... like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (review below).
When the book is set in the era of segregation, racial inequality or the time of slavery, I can understand the author's use of the 'N' word. I don't like it, but I understand it. However, when a book is set in present-day and the book is intended for teens, the use of the 'N' word pisses me off. It was used twice in this book and I thought it unnecessary. There were other ways the author could have expressed the character's dislike towards D.
Other negatives ... I would've loved to have had a little more background of the ship found at Ground Zero in the book and not in the author's preface (not everybody reads the preface). I also would've loved to hear more about the history of the African Burial Ground.
The dynamics between D, Nyla and Hakeem seemed to happen a little too quickly and didn't feel natural. I'm sure it happened quickly due to the length of the book, but I've read other short books where the relationships felt more natural.
I really don't know what else to say. I was looking forward to enjoying this book, but that didn't happen for me. I'm not going to recommend this book to anyone ... and, yes, it is simply due to the use of a derogatory term that I prefer not to see in teen reads.