Monday, May 22, 2017

New Boy by Tracey Chevalier: Othello on the Playground

I looked forward to reading the Hogarth Shakespeare update of Othello by one of my favorite historical fiction authors, Tracey Chevalier.

Set in the 1970s, New Boy is the story of Osei Kokote, son of a diplomat from Ghana, newly arrived on the suburban Washington D.C. schoolyard. O, as he is called, soon finds that Dee, the most popular girl in school, chooses him to be her boyfriend. But Ian, the playground bully, sees his entire social hierarchy threatened by O's love conquest and kickball ability.

Racial stereotyping and prejudice simmers, unspoken but obvious in the teacher's attitudes. When teachers observe Dee and O touching each other's hair it only confirms their worst fears about the black boy.

Ian sets up a series of events to make O suspect his good fortune, bringing misery and physical harm.

Chevalier's playground society rings true to the character's age and time, and the Othello story becomes more chilling and disturbing played out by characters in an America divided by racism.

New Boy is a powerful book. It can stand on its own, but I hope it will be used to introduce young adult readers to Shakespeare's tragic play. I recommended it to my book club.

I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

New Boy
Tracey Chevalier
Hogarth
Publication May 16, 2017
$25 hardcover
ISBN: 9780553447637