Heavy Medal Mock Newbery Finalist #2: Genesis Begins Again
Introduced by Heavy Medal Committee Member Mary Zdrojewski
As soon as Genesis Begins Again arrived in my library, I noticed it was never on the shelf. The book was checked out by a 7th grade student, and from there it was passed from hand to hand. Students came to return it with the person who was checking it out next. Some books arrive with a clamor and have a waiting list a mile long, but some sneak in with a whisper from ear to ear.
Genesis Begins Again is that whisper that spread through my school.
The book begins with a scene that will make anyone who has experienced middle school cringe: Genesis might finally have a chance with the girls who run the school, but, just as her hopes raise, she arrives home to find the furniture on the lawn because they’ve been evicted again, and all her hopes are beaten down in an instant.
From that first scene, readers connect with Genesis as her family is forced to relocate, first living with her unfriendly grandmother and then moving to a dream house in a different school area. Through the story, Genesis struggles with the list of reasons to hate her, a list started by others but added to by Genesis herself. One thing from the list she is determined to change is her dark skin tone, and her methods intensify from painful to dangerous. With the support of a choir teacher and friends at her new school, Genesis struggles to find her voice and appreciate who she is. Those struggles and how she responds to them develop Genesis as a complex and believable character.
Plot development is another strength. This book is filled with tension. Genesis and her mother never know when her father will be drunk and when he will gamble away their money; every day she is left wondering if this is a day they will fry shrimp together for a midnight snack or a day he’ll say how much he hates her skin. Her conversations with her mother and grandmother also keep the reader on edge. Though Genesis is living in a nice house and going to a school she likes, she can’t allow herself to settle in, because there’s no way of knowing when they’ll be kicked out of this house, too.
In addition to family and school struggles, Genesis Begins Again wrestles with challenging themes, offering a vibrant look into issues of colorism that are rarely seen portrayed so clearly in middle grade fiction.
We now welcome more comments about Genesis Begins Again, from members of the Heavy Medal Committee and from any other readers. We’ll start with positive comments about the book and open discussion up to questions and concerns once five positive comments have been posted.
Filed under: Book Discussion
About Steven Engelfried
Steven Engelfried was the Library Services Manager at the Wilsonville Public Library in Oregon until he retired in 2022 after 35 years as a full-time librarian. He served on the 2010 Newbery committee, chaired the 2013 Newbery Committee, and also served on the 2002 Caldecott committee. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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