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In the Key of Us

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From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again. Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi's blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music c From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again. Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi's blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like she used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy, even though she secretly has a dancer's heart. At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hopes for the future. And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. In the Key of Us is a lyrical ode to music camp, the rush of first love, and the power of one life-changing summer.


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From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again. Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi's blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music c From the author of the critically acclaimed novel For Black Girls Like Me, Mariama J. Lockington, comes a coming-of-age story surrounding the losses that threaten to break us and the friendships that make us whole again. Thirteen-year-old Andi feels stranded after the loss of her mother, the artist who swept color onto Andi's blank canvas. When she is accepted to a music camp, Andi finds herself struggling to play her trumpet like she used to before her whole world changed. Meanwhile, Zora, a returning camper, is exhausted trying to please her parents, who are determined to make her a flute prodigy, even though she secretly has a dancer's heart. At Harmony Music Camp, Zora and Andi are the only two Black girls in a sea of mostly white faces. In kayaks and creaky cabins, the two begin to connect, unraveling their loss, insecurities, and hopes for the future. And as they struggle to figure out who they really are, they may just come to realize who they really need: each other. In the Key of Us is a lyrical ode to music camp, the rush of first love, and the power of one life-changing summer.

30 review for In the Key of Us

  1. 4 out of 5

    BlackSpec Circuit

    I cried for one hour after finishing this book. Im still wrecked about it this morning so im going to keep this very short.This book was pure bliss, painful, joyful and was addressing a lot of things that were personal to me.This story was like stepping into a pile of grass early in the morning and letting the morning dew bless your feet. It was funny at times (these kids are hilarious), it was devastating other times. I am eternally grateful to this author for the Black queer rep, the represent I cried for one hour after finishing this book. Im still wrecked about it this morning so im going to keep this very short.This book was pure bliss, painful, joyful and was addressing a lot of things that were personal to me.This story was like stepping into a pile of grass early in the morning and letting the morning dew bless your feet. It was funny at times (these kids are hilarious), it was devastating other times. I am eternally grateful to this author for the Black queer rep, the representation of big Black girls who love their bodies just the way that it is. Every dining hall scene was like someone giving me a warm hug. I wanted to hold these two girls Andi and Zora and squeeze them and tell them how amazing they are. Christopher was a lovely character too. The writing in this book is gorgeous and very descriptive. I would check content warnings for this book before going in but otherwise i honestly think this is one of the best books i've read this year so far, and it might be for you too.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    Sweet, sad, and hopeful. Andi is dealing with the grief of losing a parent while trying to fit into a new family dynamic, Zora is struggling with self-harm and high, mismatched parental expectations, and both are working hard to understand their creative needs and to express themselves artistically, as one of a very few Black kids attending a prestigious music camp. This is just a small number of the many pretty heavy topics covered in this book, but all the issues in the novel appear and are co Sweet, sad, and hopeful. Andi is dealing with the grief of losing a parent while trying to fit into a new family dynamic, Zora is struggling with self-harm and high, mismatched parental expectations, and both are working hard to understand their creative needs and to express themselves artistically, as one of a very few Black kids attending a prestigious music camp. This is just a small number of the many pretty heavy topics covered in this book, but all the issues in the novel appear and are covered organically and with love and care, and at a level totally accessible to middle grade readers.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Laura Gardner

    Beautiful!! I’m a big fan of this author after her magnificent debut and this one is a hit, too. Andi and Zora are two young Black musicians at a music summer camp. Andi is struggling w grief after her mother’s death the year prior and trying to find her way back to her soul music on the trumpet. Zora is a perfectionist struggling to please her demanding parents and wishing she could express herself as a dancer rather than a flautist. The two don’t hit it off at first, but when they do it’s magi Beautiful!! I’m a big fan of this author after her magnificent debut and this one is a hit, too. Andi and Zora are two young Black musicians at a music summer camp. Andi is struggling w grief after her mother’s death the year prior and trying to find her way back to her soul music on the trumpet. Zora is a perfectionist struggling to please her demanding parents and wishing she could express herself as a dancer rather than a flautist. The two don’t hit it off at first, but when they do it’s magic. Addresses self harm, racism and micro aggressions, as well as LGBTQ coming out. Highly recommended!! Grades 5+

  4. 4 out of 5

    acorn

    Deep, lively, beautiful 💛 Andi isn’t super excited for music camp after the loss of her mom and rough end of the school year. Zora is eager to return to camp but feels like music isn’t her true passion. Together, they explore the setting with a stronger heart and hope… This book is so special. I love the writing and characters. Andi and Zora are relatable and interesting. The plot had a perfect balance of description and action. Loved this!!! 🥰

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Yingling

    E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Andi doesn't really want to go to summer music camp. She used to love to play the trumpet, but that was before her mother died in a car accident and she had to go live with her uptight aunt and white uncle who never really approved of her mother's artistic lifestyle. To make matters worse, she is going to become a cousin, and feels that her aunt and uncle just want to get her out of the way for the summer. The camp seems uptight as well, and Andi, who prefers to d E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus Andi doesn't really want to go to summer music camp. She used to love to play the trumpet, but that was before her mother died in a car accident and she had to go live with her uptight aunt and white uncle who never really approved of her mother's artistic lifestyle. To make matters worse, she is going to become a cousin, and feels that her aunt and uncle just want to get her out of the way for the summer. The camp seems uptight as well, and Andi, who prefers to dress in all black, is not keen on the uniform, especially the knee socks. Zora, too, has her reservations about camp. Her parents are also strict, and her mother wants her to excel at playing the flute, especially after Zora had an unfortunate experience with dance. Her mother tells her that dance is not kind to girls "like you", meaning Black and curvy. Andi and Zora are bunk mates, and Zora is supposed to teach Andi the ropes, since Zora has been attending the camp for years, but the two have an unfortunate encounter that strains their relationship. Andi instead makes friends with Christopher, who has a very boisterous personality, loves arts and crafts, and tells Andi in confidence that he young adult sister is raising him after his parents were deported back to the Philippines. Andi struggles with the strictures of the elite camp, and Zora finds that she really does prefer dance after taking a master class with a black dance instructor who has a troupe in Detroit, not too terribly far from Zora's home in Ann Arbor. Both girls know that they are not interestedin boys the way other girls are, and find that they are attracted to each other, but are still a bit unsure how to proceed with a "more than friends" relationship. While Zora's friend Kendall (with whom she exchanges the occasional letter) is cool with her queer identification, as are the girls at camp, she and Andi still have a series of misunderstandings before they are able to admit their feelings. When parents' weekend arrives, both have problems with their families, but are able to work them out and find a way forward where they can embrace their new interests with the support of their families. Strengths: A change that has arisen in the last two years is that when students ask for romance books, I have to be careful to give them options that move beyond the traditional boy-girl crushes. This is a great book for readers who want a girl-girl romance. There is a lot of information about the musical process of the camp, and chair auditions are brutal when one is in middle school; it was good to see that portrayed. Both girls struggle with the expectations at home, which are very narrow and don't take their opinions into account as much as they should, which many readers will understand. The budding romance between Andi and Zora is the real draw for young readers here. Andi's grief and guilt over her mother's death are realistically portrayed, and it was good to see that she was in therapy and had some coping mechanisms. The cover is very appealing. Weaknesses: While I understand why we see the plot unfold from the dual perspectives, I was so engrossed in Andi's story that it was a bit jarring when a new chapter started from Zora's perspective. There were also a lot of flashbacks that sometimes took me out of the present story as well. It was important to know the backstory for both Andi and Zora, but I almost wish we had seen more of their separate lives before they got to camp so that the present day narrative didn't need to be interrupted. Summer camp stories and books about band are difficult to place in my library. I loved Grosso's I am Drums, but it rarely leaves the shelves. What I really think: This would be good for readers who enjoyed Rhuday-Perkovich's It Doesn't Take a Genius and Chase's Turning Point, and was very similar to Bigelow's Drum Roll, Please. Having been to an elite and very Christian music camp in the early 1980s, I would venture to say that the problems with elite music camps don't only affect Black attendees. I had a miserable experience, and Andi was not alone with struggling with the expectations and narrow mind set. On a personal note, I'm never a fan of negative portrayals of Karens, and Kendall's father is engaged to a yoga teacher who shares my appellation and is described as "white and basic just like her name" (quote from the uncorrected E ARC). I understand why this happens, and know I shouldn't feel hurt, but it's still not a great thing to see negative stereotypes of any kind in middle grade literature.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Kathie

    I really enjoyed this excellent story where two girls connect during summer music camp. Andi is dealing with the loss of her mom and is trying to rekindle her musical expression that disappeared when her mom died. Zora is a music-driven performer who wishes she could have freedom to pursue her love of dance. Over the course of the summer, the girls develop a relationship that helps them feel accepted for who they truly are, and to find the courage to move beyond the limitations they've placed on I really enjoyed this excellent story where two girls connect during summer music camp. Andi is dealing with the loss of her mom and is trying to rekindle her musical expression that disappeared when her mom died. Zora is a music-driven performer who wishes she could have freedom to pursue her love of dance. Over the course of the summer, the girls develop a relationship that helps them feel accepted for who they truly are, and to find the courage to move beyond the limitations they've placed on themselves. The book explores issues such as race and self harm with LGBTQIA+ representation. I would definitely recommend this book for middle-school collections.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Kim

    What a beautiful book on so many levels. Andi is struggling with the death of her mother. She's living with her aunt and uncle, feeling like a 5th wheel, trying to grapple with her actions prior to her mother's death, and coping with the changes in her life and in her world. Her aunt sends her to Music Camp over the summer, and Andi reluctantly goes, not expecting to connect or fit in. Over the course of the month she learns the meaning and value of friendship and family connections. Zora has gon What a beautiful book on so many levels. Andi is struggling with the death of her mother. She's living with her aunt and uncle, feeling like a 5th wheel, trying to grapple with her actions prior to her mother's death, and coping with the changes in her life and in her world. Her aunt sends her to Music Camp over the summer, and Andi reluctantly goes, not expecting to connect or fit in. Over the course of the month she learns the meaning and value of friendship and family connections. Zora has gone to Music Camp for many summers, and always looks forward to it. This year she begins the summer with a fight with her best friend, and a fear of letting down her parents. She also has a secret bubbling to the surface of her world, and she struggles with all she holds dear. A coming of age story of two twelve year old girls, their budding awareness of friendship, life, and acceptance of the changing nature we all go through. It's beautifully written and the characters are rich in their exploration of the summer and growing up. They are more knowledgeable of the world and it's challenges than I remember being at twelve, but the world is a vastly changing space, and this book can create a safe space for self-exploration, and can encourage young girls to look within and accept themselves as they are, regardless of skin color and gender roles.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jamila

    This is a sweet and gentle middle-grade book that also includes pain and healing and fear. The Black Queer romance between Andi and Zora is well written. I love the music camp setting and the centering of young artists. Must-read!

  9. 5 out of 5

    april ☔

    IN THE KEY OF US deals so deftly with difficult themes such as grief, loss, self-worth, and more, but at the end of it, my lasting impression is just that it's heartwarming and wholesome. which, if you ask me, is the perfect balance to have for a middle-grade novel or any novel—a nuanced story that leaves you feeling hopeful. this book has all the makings of a good summer story: music camp in the woods, a cast of dynamic personalities, and the tentative-ness but earnestness that comes with young IN THE KEY OF US deals so deftly with difficult themes such as grief, loss, self-worth, and more, but at the end of it, my lasting impression is just that it's heartwarming and wholesome. which, if you ask me, is the perfect balance to have for a middle-grade novel or any novel—a nuanced story that leaves you feeling hopeful. this book has all the makings of a good summer story: music camp in the woods, a cast of dynamic personalities, and the tentative-ness but earnestness that comes with young love. the sapphic romance is heart-fluttering yet complex. lockington tackles a lot of difficult topics but weaves it in well. and all the characters are three-dimensional—even the parents—which i always appreciate. would have loved this book at 13, and i love it now at 20. i think in some ways we are all always coming-of-age, so there's something so profound to be found in andi and zora's stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Tracey Lafayette

    Without a doubt this has been one of my favorite reads this summer. I could not stop turning the pages because I just had to know what happened next in Andi and Zora’s stories. This story touches on so many important topics and would make for a great conversation starter, as well as an opportunity for some readers who don’t typically see themself reflected in literature to finally see themselves in a powerful way.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carli

    Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan for the advance Kindle copy of this book. I’m a tad late, as it came out this past Tuesday. All opinions are my own. • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this beautiful and sad dual-perspective story. Black teens Andi and Zora meet an a summer orchestra camp. Andi is mourning the death of her mother and upheaval of her life as she has moved in with her aunt and uncle, who are polar opposites of her mom. Zora is cracking under the pressure of being the perfect daughter, student, and Thanks to Netgalley and Macmillan for the advance Kindle copy of this book. I’m a tad late, as it came out this past Tuesday. All opinions are my own. • ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5 for this beautiful and sad dual-perspective story. Black teens Andi and Zora meet an a summer orchestra camp. Andi is mourning the death of her mother and upheaval of her life as she has moved in with her aunt and uncle, who are polar opposites of her mom. Zora is cracking under the pressure of being the perfect daughter, student, and friend. They find each other and learn that they may be more than friends, and navigate how to best be there when life gets to be too hard. Trigger warning: self harm. Beautifully done and recommended for grades 6-8.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    Andi and Zora are the only two Black girls at Harmony Music Camp, a prestigious summer program for young musicians. Andi is still mourning her artistic mom, and Zora is drowning under the weight of her family's expectations for her. Despite their initial personality clashes, Andi and Zora begin to gravitate together and find comfort in each other as they navigate the difficulties of growing up and moving forward in this middle grade novel of grief, competition, and sweet first love. Andi and Zora are the only two Black girls at Harmony Music Camp, a prestigious summer program for young musicians. Andi is still mourning her artistic mom, and Zora is drowning under the weight of her family's expectations for her. Despite their initial personality clashes, Andi and Zora begin to gravitate together and find comfort in each other as they navigate the difficulties of growing up and moving forward in this middle grade novel of grief, competition, and sweet first love.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kayla Phaneuf

    ARC provided by Netgalley. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I really enjoyed this one! I thought the setting of band camp was fun and I really appreciated that the author represented the kids having conflicting interests with what they were at camp to focus on. I struggled as a kid to not focus on one sole activity (for me, soccer) and I always look back wishing I had opened up my options more. So personally, I think it's a cool message to tell kids that it's okay to change their interests and want to ARC provided by Netgalley. 3.5 stars rounded up to 4. I really enjoyed this one! I thought the setting of band camp was fun and I really appreciated that the author represented the kids having conflicting interests with what they were at camp to focus on. I struggled as a kid to not focus on one sole activity (for me, soccer) and I always look back wishing I had opened up my options more. So personally, I think it's a cool message to tell kids that it's okay to change their interests and want to pursue new activities. I thought the relationship elements were really cute. Everyone who has been to a youth summer camp knows that there's always so much chatter about who is attractive and who you like and crushes abound. I love being able to see these elements but with the LGBTQ+ representation. That's something I never got to read about or experience as a kid. There are also a lot of darker, more complex themes in this: grief, death, self harm, bullying, racism, microaggressions, etc. I don't think some of these things are too much for middle grade age to handle, lord knows I would've felt much less alone at 12 reading some of this stuff in books. I do think it's a good idea to give kids space and have conversations with them about it to work through some of the topics though. Overall, I definitely recommend this book!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Courtney

    There were things about this book I really enjoyed and some things I did not, hence the three rating. I really loved the interludes when we got the perspective from the camp, those were beautifully done.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Porshea DiMera

    Content warning: self harm, microaggressions Ambition, grief, and pent up feelings describe many spheres of human experience, yet there is perhaps no time in life where this chaotic combination is harder to express than in middle school. In the Key of Us is a novel set during the main characters’ summer in their thirteenth year—the angstiest of times. With each of the aforementioned emotions guiding the trajectory of their relationships with each other, their guardians, their peers, and their tea Content warning: self harm, microaggressions Ambition, grief, and pent up feelings describe many spheres of human experience, yet there is perhaps no time in life where this chaotic combination is harder to express than in middle school. In the Key of Us is a novel set during the main characters’ summer in their thirteenth year—the angstiest of times. With each of the aforementioned emotions guiding the trajectory of their relationships with each other, their guardians, their peers, and their teachers, the author Mariama J. Lockington skillfully covers a lot of ground in many varied lanes. Andi is a girl grappling with the loss of the most important person in her life, her mother. A few months prior to where the story begins, Andi’s mother dies in a car accident on her way to pick Andi up from school. Racked with regret for what she sees as her hand in her mother’s death, Andi suffers from debilitating anxiety attacks and feels disconnected from all of the things she once enjoyed about her life. Now that she lives with her aunt, she finds herself in a weird nexus where she feels unwanted despite seeing all of the ways her aunt and uncle work to show her that she has a place with them. Her sense of displacement grows worse when they share the news of her aunt’s pregnancy and push her to apply to a prestigious music camp for her summer. Though she was able to push through an audition tape for the camp that gained her entry, Andi’s loss of her mother has also set her adrift from their shared love of music. So when she makes it to the highly renowned music camp in woodsy Michigan, she is less than thrilled and fearful that she won’t be able to live up to expectations. It is only after she meets an energetic new friend who helps her to get out of her own head and deal with the aggressively ambitious energies from the girls in her cabin, that Andi finds space to unwind. Unfortunately, one of her passively aggressive cabin mates shares her bunk and happens to be the only other Black girl at camp—Zora. Find the full review here: https://blackgirlscreate.org/2022/04/...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    In The Key of Us - Mariama J Lockington ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thank you @storygramkids for the copy of this book I won in your giveaway back at the end of April. This book has heart,soul and for those of us who went to Summer Camp, some great throwback memories. I really enjoyed it and it opened my eyes to experiences I did not have to deal with growing up when and where I did. I loved the Summer Camp descriptions and antics… I went one time when I was about 10, and many of those depictions were spot on! I mea In The Key of Us - Mariama J Lockington ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Thank you @storygramkids for the copy of this book I won in your giveaway back at the end of April. This book has heart,soul and for those of us who went to Summer Camp, some great throwback memories. I really enjoyed it and it opened my eyes to experiences I did not have to deal with growing up when and where I did. I loved the Summer Camp descriptions and antics… I went one time when I was about 10, and many of those depictions were spot on! I mean making lanyards??!! I loved those! “Mama always taught me to be more open than other kids. Some people in the world don’t know how to love themselves, let alone people who are different than them.” Andi Byrd in The Key of Us Andi, Zora and Christopher are all 12 year olds who are lucky enough to have been accepted to the prestigious Harmony Music Camp. Each of these characters are dealing with the struggles of growing up under trying circumstances. Andi is struggling through the grief and guilt of losing her single Mom; Zora is dealing with the struggle to be perfect within a family that demands no less, and Christopher whose excessive habits are how he deals with the only way to make his parents proud while he is separated from them. Mariama Lockington as a artful writer and deals with some very heavy subjects in a very delicate and respectful way; loss of a parent, bullying, self hurt, obsessive/ compulsive disorder, and trusting yourself enough to be your true self. This is a book targeted for 12 and up, but I would suggest as a parent you read it first and decide if your tween is ready for these topics. To me,12 is a little young. With that said, I would recommend this book as a way to interact and have some important insightful discussions on some difficult subjects with your middle schoolers…

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    In the Key of Us mixes many of the elements of a classic summer camp story with diverse characters portrayed with love. Andi and Zora are both three-dimensional and easy to root for, and the way that both their POVs were included in alternating quarters of the book worked very well to engage the reader. (There are also poems from the personified POV of the campground itself, a creative way to reinforce the themes of the story!) The development of the relationship between Andi and Zora felt very In the Key of Us mixes many of the elements of a classic summer camp story with diverse characters portrayed with love. Andi and Zora are both three-dimensional and easy to root for, and the way that both their POVs were included in alternating quarters of the book worked very well to engage the reader. (There are also poems from the personified POV of the campground itself, a creative way to reinforce the themes of the story!) The development of the relationship between Andi and Zora felt very smooth and natural--not at all rushed, and each stage felt very believable. There's a little bit of "narrator vaguely and repeatedly references a past event they experienced before finally telling the reader about it", which is not a trope I like, but it wasn't over the top and didn't have too much of a negative impact on my enjoyment of the story. Overall, a great pick for fans of Drum Roll, Please and Spin with Me. I do think the dialogue isn't the best-written; for the first third or so of the book especially it just felt quite awkward and unnatural. There's also one "I'm not like most girls!" which I'm guessing is in reference to the character in question being queer which is revealed later, but still, as we know it's not a great line. Content warnings are included in the book for "depictions of self-injury, anxiety attacks, and grief associated with the loss of a loved one". Nice when publishers put those in, but couldn't they put them somewhere where potential readers can see and consider them without having to start the book first? And I'd add that there's some unsafe behavior, bullying, potential slurs, and a couple sexual and drug references. I wish the cover of the book depicted water safety--why no life jackets? A map of the campground is included, which wasn't really necessary to consult but still fun.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Jaime

    In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington | 4 stars Zora and Andi are two girls going to Harmony Music Camp for a month in the summer. Although, they don't know each other at the start of camp, their lives intertwine in beautiful ways as they connect with each other and learn a lot about who they are and who they want to be in the future. Zora struggles with perfectionism, having a severe desire to perform to perfection. This is exacerbated by the expectations her mother puts on her to be the bes In the Key of Us by Mariama J. Lockington | 4 stars Zora and Andi are two girls going to Harmony Music Camp for a month in the summer. Although, they don't know each other at the start of camp, their lives intertwine in beautiful ways as they connect with each other and learn a lot about who they are and who they want to be in the future. Zora struggles with perfectionism, having a severe desire to perform to perfection. This is exacerbated by the expectations her mother puts on her to be the best, and oftentimes leaves Zora to cope in ways that are unhealthy and harmful to her. Andi is dealing with grief after the loss of her mother and the upcoming birth of her cousin-sister. She struggles with feeling like she doesn't have a space to belong, feeling like a fifth wheel living with her aunt and uncle and being a newcomer at Harmony Music Camp. As the weeks pass, Zora and Andi find a kinship with each other that is unique and honest and real. The girls encourage each other to be free and give each other a space to belong. The love that blossoms between them was sweet; the representation that comes from seeing two Black girls accepting who they are and falling in love is powerful and much needed. In The Key of Us was a delightful, heartfelt middle-grade novel that genuinely made me feel all the feelings. If a middle-grade novel can make me feel for its characters as an adult, I call that a success--it basically guarantees that its targeted audience will definitely enjoy it and feel moved by the characters and story as well. Thank you to Netgalley and the author for an early copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Erica

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This story has a similar set-up to Drum Roll, Please, and will likely appeal to the same readers. There are, however, some key differences; the two main characters in this story are both Black girls (age 12) who are struggling to live up to the expectations of their parents/caretakers, and the highly-structured camp revolves more around the competition that is often found in school music departments, not so much on self-exploration. I got the feeling throughout that the characters should've been This story has a similar set-up to Drum Roll, Please, and will likely appeal to the same readers. There are, however, some key differences; the two main characters in this story are both Black girls (age 12) who are struggling to live up to the expectations of their parents/caretakers, and the highly-structured camp revolves more around the competition that is often found in school music departments, not so much on self-exploration. I got the feeling throughout that the characters should've been 2 or 3 years older - based on my observations of actual young people; the love interests and romantic talk of the various campers seemed just a bit older, even more so the crisis behavior - the self-harm Zora does and the withdrawal Andi does - both of them trying to cope with a jarring sense that their own motivations, interests, and desires don't match those of their parents and teachers. Although this can happen with 12-year-olds, it was complex and included several nuanced positions. I think young readers will enjoy it, and not trip on the things that bothered me. It is not typical for young people who engage in self-harm to be popular, confident, have a stable, loving family, and have a special talent or skill they have developed 0 but it's not impossible. I appreciated the way the author showed readers how race-based microaggressions feel and what to do about them.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Gillian

    I loved this poignant dual-POV book of two girls who attend a summer music camp. Andi has been struggling with her trumpet playing ever since her mom died. Zora is trying to please her parents via her flute playing, but dancing is the love of her heart. Lockington writes beautifully and creates characters who are realistic and lovable. I felt completely immersed in each POV and loved switching back and forth between the perspectives. I also LOVED the short chapters in verse from yet another pers I loved this poignant dual-POV book of two girls who attend a summer music camp. Andi has been struggling with her trumpet playing ever since her mom died. Zora is trying to please her parents via her flute playing, but dancing is the love of her heart. Lockington writes beautifully and creates characters who are realistic and lovable. I felt completely immersed in each POV and loved switching back and forth between the perspectives. I also LOVED the short chapters in verse from yet another perspective (I won't say which perspective that is, but it was one of my very favorite parts of the book). I was a summer camp kid/teen myself and I loved the way that "camp time" is captured so perfectly in this story... it's hard to explain to people who've never been to camp, but there's got to be some formula where one day at camp equals one month in the outside world. I really appreciated the exploration of the themes of belonging and finding your voice. I also love the way that Andi and Zora find each other and the feelings they develop for each other. A tender, beautifully written summer story.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Grace Allyn

    “I learn that even when I can’t see past the tree line of my own woods I am part of something bigger than myself” 🌲 Andi is coping with the tragic loss of her mother and adapting to new life with her aunt, uncle, and soon to be cousin. She’s grieving, confused, and the the last place she wants to be in a music camp full of strangers in the woods. Zora is drowning in her parent’s constant pressure to be the best of the best. She’s barely treading water as she’s severed her relationship with her be “I learn that even when I can’t see past the tree line of my own woods I am part of something bigger than myself” 🌲 Andi is coping with the tragic loss of her mother and adapting to new life with her aunt, uncle, and soon to be cousin. She’s grieving, confused, and the the last place she wants to be in a music camp full of strangers in the woods. Zora is drowning in her parent’s constant pressure to be the best of the best. She’s barely treading water as she’s severed her relationship with her bestie back home, yet still has to maintain her bubbly personality all her camp buds know & love. 🎶🛶 🪵 The two don’t click off the bat, but as they navigate through weeks in a sea of mostly white faces, they come to find familiarity and comfort in their insecurities, hopes, and dreams. I am not always the biggest fan of dual perspective books, but this was so well done. Neither character was super lovable or perfect at first (because really 13 is not the sweetest age 😵‍💫), which left so much room for growth. Lockington intertwined changing families, self harm, LGBTQ+ representation, micro aggressions, grief, loss, and so much more. 💙

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cindy

    I am a grown woman and I don't mind admitting that I sometimes enjoy reading YA novels. As these sorts of stories go, this one had tons of heart and soul! I just loved the dual POVs of the main characters, Andi and Zora, and felt like the character development of both was spot on. The story starts off being about two very different girls who meet at a prestigious music camp, but then travels further into the heartwarming process of them finding a connection with each other and finding themselves I am a grown woman and I don't mind admitting that I sometimes enjoy reading YA novels. As these sorts of stories go, this one had tons of heart and soul! I just loved the dual POVs of the main characters, Andi and Zora, and felt like the character development of both was spot on. The story starts off being about two very different girls who meet at a prestigious music camp, but then travels further into the heartwarming process of them finding a connection with each other and finding themselves in the process. I think young people can relate to these girls and their struggles, even if the reader isn't a BIPOC or lesbian. The beautiful thing about books is that they can transform the reader to a new place while simultaneously unlocking a common bond that is within us all. This book did just that! I felt like I experienced a brief stay at summer camp as I read this one, and I enjoyed the characters I got to meet along the way!

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kim

    Thank you to NetGalley for a free eARC copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. In the Key of Us is an absolute gem of a read. Lockington tackles many topics in an age-appropriate way for her intended audience. Some of the topics discussed are: racism, loss of a family member, self-harm, perfectionism, camp crushes (with a focus on navigating being a queer kid), and growing up, among other topics. We follow Andi and Zora navigate through 4 weeks of an elite music camp. The story is e Thank you to NetGalley for a free eARC copy of this book, in exchange for my honest review. In the Key of Us is an absolute gem of a read. Lockington tackles many topics in an age-appropriate way for her intended audience. Some of the topics discussed are: racism, loss of a family member, self-harm, perfectionism, camp crushes (with a focus on navigating being a queer kid), and growing up, among other topics. We follow Andi and Zora navigate through 4 weeks of an elite music camp. The story is extremely well written in a clever way-- weeks 1 and 3 are from Andi's perspective, while weeks 2 and 4 are narrated by Zora. Each girl looks a certain way on the outside to the kids at camp, and we get to explore what they are both really struggling with behind the facade. I will definitely be recommending this book to others and look forward to finding other books from Lockington.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Latitude

    In the Key of Us is a dual-perspective summer camp book perfect for this summer. It’s a middle grade novel about girls struggling with identity, and it’s told with such sincere voice and heart that you can’t help but love it. If you were in a middle-school band, then you’ll identify with a lot of this — I definitely flashed back to how incredibly stressful chair auditions were in middle school, which I haven’t thought about until right now. (I consistently scored dead last because I never practi In the Key of Us is a dual-perspective summer camp book perfect for this summer. It’s a middle grade novel about girls struggling with identity, and it’s told with such sincere voice and heart that you can’t help but love it. If you were in a middle-school band, then you’ll identify with a lot of this — I definitely flashed back to how incredibly stressful chair auditions were in middle school, which I haven’t thought about until right now. (I consistently scored dead last because I never practiced at home, and I still don’t! But I do love playing cello when I get around to it.) It’s a sweet book, and it’s also hopeful for the future; I remember being twelve and it felt like I was on the brink of a lot of different things, and this book captures that feeling perfectly. Four and a half stars, rounded up for Goodreads.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Amanda Shepard (Between-the-Shelves)

    4.5 stars Such a beautiful middle grade book about changing families, dealing with parental expectations, grief, and figuring out your identity. All set at a summer music camp! Andi and Zora are absolutely relatable narrators, and they're both struggling with their own things. They form a kind of kinship while they're at camp, something that eventually transforms into something more. You can just feel the emotions behind the story in this book. Andi is struggling with her mother's death, trying to 4.5 stars Such a beautiful middle grade book about changing families, dealing with parental expectations, grief, and figuring out your identity. All set at a summer music camp! Andi and Zora are absolutely relatable narrators, and they're both struggling with their own things. They form a kind of kinship while they're at camp, something that eventually transforms into something more. You can just feel the emotions behind the story in this book. Andi is struggling with her mother's death, trying to figure out where she fits into this new family with her aunt and uncle. Meanwhile, Zora is trying to balance her parents' expectations with her true passion, dance. I love that they found each other and encouraged each other to follow their passions. It was the best thing about this book, hands down.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. I read Mariama J. Lockington first book, For Black Girls Like Me, in preparation for hearing her speak at the transracial adoption camp that my family attends yearly. I liked it but didn't love it. I enjoyed In the Key of Us so much more! It still presents issues of race and racism, but it feels more refined and realistic. In this story, Andi and Zora are minoritie Thank you to Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR), and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book. I read Mariama J. Lockington first book, For Black Girls Like Me, in preparation for hearing her speak at the transracial adoption camp that my family attends yearly. I liked it but didn't love it. I enjoyed In the Key of Us so much more! It still presents issues of race and racism, but it feels more refined and realistic. In this story, Andi and Zora are minorities at their summer music camp. Andi is struggling with the death of her mother and the impending birth of a new family member while Zora is battling perfectionism and self-harm. Both girls are also realizing they're romantically attracted to one another as well. There is a lot going on in this book, but Lockington handles it all with age-appropriateness. Friendship and love abound in this middle-grade book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Eileen Winfrey

    Set at a really fun sounding summer music camp (the camp is an actual background character that has its own interlude poems), this is a story about the two main characters, Zora and Andi, and ALL of their big feelings. Andi is grieving the death of her mother (there is a very long lead up to why she thinks it's her fault) and suffers from anxiety attacks. Zora is dealing with pressure from her parents to achieve, achieve achieve and engages in self-harm to cope. They are both also discovering ro Set at a really fun sounding summer music camp (the camp is an actual background character that has its own interlude poems), this is a story about the two main characters, Zora and Andi, and ALL of their big feelings. Andi is grieving the death of her mother (there is a very long lead up to why she thinks it's her fault) and suffers from anxiety attacks. Zora is dealing with pressure from her parents to achieve, achieve achieve and engages in self-harm to cope. They are both also discovering romantic feelings for each other and dealing with pretty awful instances of racism and micro-aggressions from the white girls around them. I know it's reviewed as grades 3-7, but I'd keep it up in middle school. Lots of mature imagery here.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alexa Hamilton

    Orchestra camp is not for everyone but it's great for Andi, who loves to play her trumpet. But maybe it's too structured and maybe it feels too much like she's being sent away from her aunt and uncle's--her new guardians after her mother died. We also follow Zora, a flutist with a bright future who has been going to camp for years. Zora and Andi become reluctant friends, they are both Black so everyone thinks they should be friends. But eventually, it sticks because they do have things in common Orchestra camp is not for everyone but it's great for Andi, who loves to play her trumpet. But maybe it's too structured and maybe it feels too much like she's being sent away from her aunt and uncle's--her new guardians after her mother died. We also follow Zora, a flutist with a bright future who has been going to camp for years. Zora and Andi become reluctant friends, they are both Black so everyone thinks they should be friends. But eventually, it sticks because they do have things in common. This is a really nice exploration of grief and anxiety and camp and friendships. It touches on real issues of race and color and art. It's a sleepaway camp book, too, which is a nice category and such a good summer read with heart and deep emotions.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Cynthia

    This book tries to tackle important topics (casual racism, grief, (view spoiler)[self-harm (hide spoiler)] ) and it's not a complete failure but once again, it is a typical case of adults being unable to write children. The characters are one-dimensional, two-dimensional at best for the main characters. The MC is grieving and angry, the LI is cracking under pressure and bossy, the new friend speaks like a dictionnary, the bully is a bully, the boy-obsessed girl is boy-obsessed, etc. The casual ra This book tries to tackle important topics (casual racism, grief, (view spoiler)[self-harm (hide spoiler)] ) and it's not a complete failure but once again, it is a typical case of adults being unable to write children. The characters are one-dimensional, two-dimensional at best for the main characters. The MC is grieving and angry, the LI is cracking under pressure and bossy, the new friend speaks like a dictionnary, the bully is a bully, the boy-obsessed girl is boy-obsessed, etc. The casual racism/racial identity is not done terribly, and the queerness/romantic identity is not about drama (and self-hate kinda), so it's a somewhat worthwhile book at the end of the day.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Melissa

    In the Key of Us was incredibly well-written! Set at an elite music camp, the story alternates between our two leads. I loved the setting and the dual perspectives of both girls. My heart broke for both Andi and Zora on different occasions, as they struggled with their relationships with the adults in their lives. Trigger warning: self harm (I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

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