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Sun Keep Rising by Kristen R. Lee 

The gripping story of a young teenage mother who’ll do anything to keep her small family together.

 At 17, B’onca Johnson knew from the moment she found out she was pregnant that she would love her child above all else and do anything for her. Scooter, the baby daddy, didn’t want to be a father: his parents went so far as to doubt their son was even the father. So, When Mia was born, B’onca was determined to go her own way. She would never abandon her daughter as her own mother had. 

B’onca lived with her older sister, a single mother with a young daughter, and the small family was barely keeping their heads above water. Their rent in the historically-black Ridgecrest area of Memphis, where they had always lived, was regularly increasing as gentrification quickly encroached upon the old neighborhood. 

B’onca was caring for her newborn, taking the final course in summer school for her high school diploma, and working part-time to help with the bills and pay for Mia’s constant needs. But it felt like for every step forward, she was knocked back two. Desperate for money after the sisters receive an eviction notice, B’onca risks participating, just once, in the illegal, high-profit, high-risk operation Scooter had set up to gain the large amount of cash she needs. 

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. 

I voluntarily reviewed this after receiving an Advanced Review Copy from the author or publisher through TBR and Beyond Book Tours.

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