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Tutored by Allison Whittenberg
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Nice addition to YA literature. I read it for the romance aspect and felt that it was lacking in that department. The strength of this story lies in the cultural issues it raises. ( )
  noahsmae | Dec 24, 2010 |
Wendy and Hakiam certainly don't hit it off right away - in fact, they seem to annoy each other. They're preconceived notions about the other play a big part in their attitudes. Wendy sees Hakiam as a lazy hoodlum and Hakiam sees Wendy as a stuck up snob. There's no way for Wendy to know that Hakiam has a lot of responsibility; he has to watch his cousin, Leesa's, premature daughter. And Wendy has a father who lived in the ghetto as a child and has become successful; he doesn't not want to associate, nor does he want her to associate, with anyone of a lower social class. Against all odds the two become friends and learn a lot about each other, which helps them both grow as people.

My opinion: As I first started reading this book, I kept thinking "I just KNOW I'm not going to like it!" But I pushed on and about 2/3 of the way through I really started liking it more and more. I really had a hard time grasping why Wendy agreed to have coffee with him that first time, they hadn't exactly been on good terms up to that point. I guess we can assume that she wanted to see if there was more to Hakiam than his rough exterior. And of course there was. It was really easy to see Hakiam grow through the story; his cousin Leesa was very irresponsible, not interested in her tiny premature baby, or really anything for that matter besides having parties. He was expected to take care of that poor baby most of the time and as Wendy taught him more and more about childcare he really took a renewed interest in the little girl's well being. There were a couple of passages in the book that made me chuckle, which was a good surprise. Not to give too much away, but the ending, I'm sure, will disappoint some people. PLEASE do not let this dissuade you from reading this book; I actually happen to like books that let the reader come to their own conclusions. It's nice to let your imagination fill in the blanks sometimes!

My rating: 3/5 stars ( )
  JamesterCK | Nov 1, 2010 |
Wendy Anderson grew up in the affluent--and white--suburbs of Philadelphia. Hakiam Powell shuffled through foster care. Wendy volunteers at a tutoring center for Philadelphians seeking their GEDs, against her father's wishes. When Hakiam walks in, they do NOT hit it off. Wendy writes him off as yet another slacker who is not committed to actually making something of himself, and Hakiam finds her uptight and pretentious.

In spite of their differences, however, as they get to know each other, they discover sides of each other that they hadn't bothered to believe existed before. Objection to their being together is strong, though, coming from both Wendy's father and Hakiam's cousin, with whom he's staying. Can the couple make it despite all of their differences?

I like the concept of this “unlikely love conquers all” story, and I especially looked forward to a contemporary YA romance featuring black characters. Unfortunately, TUTORED did not make much of an impression on me, due to undeveloped characters and average writing.

Wendy and Hakiam were rather flat characters, neither of whom held my attention and garnered my sympathies. They seemed to each have one main conflict that drove them. For Wendy, it was her father, who is racist against his own race; for Hakiam, it is his cousin, a very irresponsible single mother. These conflicts were carried in the most basic manners, with lots of snappy dialogue, but let’s be honest here: how many people are actually defined by one conflict as straightforward (though no less serious, let’s clarify that here) as the ones that are presented in this book?

All of the relationships in this book seemed to exist only on a surface level. Wendy and Hakiam may have squeezed in a handful of memorable lines within their constant dialogue, but the majority of the dialogue told me little except that Allison Whittenberg can write dialogue. I felt little chemistry between the two, little development of their interactions. The climax and resolution unfolded in such an unexciting way that I have my doubts as to whether or not it is worth reading less than 200 pages to get to it.

Indeed, the part of TUTORED that I liked best was Wendy’s relationship with her father. As much as I loathed how judgmental and controlling he was, I could believe that a father like him would exist, one who so completely rejects his own upbringing that he’d speak ill of his own race. I don’t have personal experience with black-on-black prejudice, but Wendy’s relationship with her father was eye-opening to be sure.

Unfortunately, with shortcomings in character development and pacing, it will be hard to promote TUTORED as a good example of POC literature. I appreciate the effort that Allison Whittenberg made, though, to tell the love story of two non-white characters, and hope that others will follow her example in the future. ( )
  stephxsu | Oct 5, 2010 |
Richie's Picks: TUTORED by Allison Whittenberg, Delacorte Press, December 2010, 192p., ISBN: 978-0-385-73869-9; Libr. ISBN: 978-0-385-90742-2

"My experiences at Princeton have made me far more aware of my 'Blackness' than ever before. I have found that at Princeton no matter how liberal and open-minded some of my White professors and classmates try to be toward me, I sometimes feel like a visitor on campus; as if I really don't belong. Regardless of the circumstances underwhich I interact with Whites at Princeton, it often seems as if, to them, I will always be Black first and a student second."
--from the Senior Thesis, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community" (1985), by Michelle LaVaughn Robinson (now Obama)

Life is "an issue of circumstance":

"Now he was really boxed into a corner. He couldn't steal. He couldn't get a job. What else was there to life?
"There was nothing to do but go home to a home that really wasn't his home. Go to his cousin's home and stare at the bumpy warts of ill-plastered walls and the mold spots on the ceiling. That big-eyed girl from the tutoring center was wrong. Really wrong. This wasn't the land of opportunity or milk and honey or gold-paved streets. For him, anywhere he went in America would be the third world."

After completing a juvie sentence for a break-in -- his latest run-in with the law -- seventeen year-old Hakiam Powell exits the foster care system and Cincinnati, departing on a Greyhound bus for Philadelphia. There, he can exchange some time babysitting Malikia, his cousin Lessa's newborn daughter, for a place to stay. Hakiam has an elementary school education, a record, and no references. Having seen a poster advertising it, he stops into the community center tutoring program that is set up to help those wanting to complete their GEDs.

There he meets Wendy.

"With that, her dad exited the room. She thought she was rid of him for the night, but he came back wagging his finger at her. 'Let me tell you something else, young lady. Martin Luther King was a great man, but he basically died for nothing when you look at this current crop. His dream of black and white children holding hands --'
"'Why are you giving a recitation on black history?'
"He continued, 'Who in his right mind would want to live next to those people, let alone hold hands with them?'
"'You're kind of sweeping through history, aren't you?'
"'If I had to live in a ghetto, I'd move.'
"'Dad, if you had to live in the ghetto, you couldn't move. That's the idea of a ghetto.'"

As a young man, Wendy Anderson's dad determinedly succeeded in leaving behind the misery and poverty of his childhood. Armed with his education and his career, he has raised Wendy in an affluent Philadelphia neighborhood where she attends a good school -- she being the one chocolate chip in that cookie. Dad is determined that she will attend a similar name-brand college. Wendy, who has her sights set on a medical career, wants the opportunity to choose her own college and, contrary to her father's dictates, is thinking seriously about the possibility of attending a traditionally-Black college..

Working after school as a tutor in the community center program, she is initially irritated by Hakiam's lack of motivation and brusque manner. But she is intrigued by what she hears of Hakiam caring for his cousin's preemie baby and soon she is spending time with Hakiam and Malikia, to the great benefit of both.

TUTORED illustrates how life is, in great measure, an issue of circumstance. It is a tale that will enlighten readers as to the reality that being Black does not tell one any more about who a person is than does being White. To consider what the four main characters -- Wendy, her dad, Hakiam, and his cousin Lessa -- have in common, is to recognize the impossibility of in any way characterizing the so-called Black Community (if, in the Twenty-first century, there really is such a thing). We see Hakiam standing in the middle of two young women -- the hyper-responsible Wendy and the criminally-irresponsible Lessa -- who are such radical opposites and who are conveying such radically-different messages to this frustrated-yet-tender-hearted young man.

In light of Wendy's father's contempt for lower class Blacks ("His favorite saying was 'I help poor people all the time--by not being one'"), it is fascinating to look at the First Lady's thesis which, in part, probes the 1985 attitudes of Black alumni as to their sense of obligation to provide assistance to the Black lower class.

It is also interesting to encounter a situation where -- to Wendy's consternation -- Hakiam and her father actually share an attitude that is opposite hers.

I began reading TUTORED with the expectation that it might be an enjoyable story about two teens from opposite sides of the tracks finding each other. I was really impressed to find that it is that -- and a whole lot more.

Richie Partington, MLIS
Richie's Picks http://richiespicks.com
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/middle_school_lit/
Moderator http://groups.yahoo.com/group/EcolIt/

FTC NOTICE: Richie receives free books from lots of publishers who hope he will Pick their books. You can figure that any review was written after reading and dog-earring a free copy received. Richie retains these review copies for his rereading pleasure and for use in his booktalks at schools and libraries. ( )
  richiespicks | Aug 10, 2010 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385738692, Hardcover)

Wendy Anderson and Hakiam Powell are at opposite ends of the spectrum—the social spectrum, the financial spectrum, the opportunity spectrum, you name it. Wendy lives in an all-white suburb of Philadelphia, where she’s always felt like the only chip in the cookie. Her dad, who fought his way out of the ghetto, doesn’t want her mingling with “those people.” In fact, all Wendy’s life, her father has told her how terrible “those people” are. He even objects to Wendy’s plan to attend a historically black college. But Wendy feels that her race is more than just the color of her skin, and she takes a job tutoring at an inner-city community center to get a more diverse perspective on life.
Hakiam has never lived in one place for more than a couple of years. When he aged out of foster care in Ohio, he hopped a bus to Philly to start over, but now he’s broke, stuck taking care of his cousin’s premature baby for no pay, and finding it harder than ever to stay out of trouble. When he meets Wendy at the tutoring center, he thinks she’s an uppity snob—she can’t possibly understand his life. But as he gets to know her better, he sees a softer side. And eventually—much to the chagrin of Wendy’s father and Hakiam’s cousin—they begin a rocky, but ultimately enlightening, romance.
This edgy story about a star-crossed couple features strong African American characters and sparkles with smart, quirky dialogue and fresh observations on social pressures and black-on-black prejudice.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:35 -0400)

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In Philadelphia, two African American teenagers from different backgrounds become romantically close when one tutors the other.

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