Wednesday, April 20, 2022


Broaddus, Maurice. Unfadeable
April 19th 2022 by Katherine Tegen Books
E ARC provided by Edelweiss Plus

Bella Fades lives in inner city Indianapolis, and since her single mother is no longer able to take care of her, is spending her summer squatting in an abandoned house that used to belong to a local artist. She spends a lot of time painting graffiti in the area, and her tag is "Unfadeable". She is occasionally caught by the police, who let her go with warnings and occasionally confiscate her paint. She has an ally in Ms. Campbell, who is on the neighborhood association and runs a local pantry/after school snack program. When Bella decides to approach the association about getting money for a children's art initiative in the area (which she calls "the Land", but which has the official designation of the United Northwest Area), she runs afoul of Mattea Larrimore, an elderly lady who is in charge of the association. There is a large quantity of money that the association has in the budget from taxes, and they have decided to allocate a lot of it to a local park. Others in the association have plans as well. Bella investigates that park, and finds that it looks half done. She is also concerned that a charter school is being planned when her own public school is in dire need of funding. She comes in contact with Menelik Paschall, the brother of Pass, who is involved in minor local crime, but who offers to help her. He is caring for Aaries, who helps M out with daily chores since M has limited vision, and has a dog named Thmei. M isn't a fan of Mattea, so uses his connections to get Bella access to meetings and records that address how the neighborhood association is spending money. When efforts to tear down local business and dramatically change the neighborhood come to light, Bella intensifies her search for information, even though a couple of local bullies are on her case. Mattea manages to have children's services remove Bella from the abandoned house, but they have her best interest at heart, and she is placed with Ms. Campbell. Will Bella be able to document the wrongdoing in the area and make the adults in charge listen to the story of corruption that she encounters?
Strengths: Like the characters in this author's The Usual Suspects, Bella is a well meaning young person who has many challenges. While her mother was supportive and taught her a lot of neighborhood history, she also struggled with mental health issues which were not properly addressed. Bella is engaged in illegal tagging, and is also working outside the system and living on her own. She sees things that are going wrong in her neighborhood, though, and works through the system to address injustices, even when the adults work against her. I love the community that she creates for herself. The cover is wonderfully eye catching. I appreciate the sympathetic portrait of children's services. 
Weaknesses: There was a lot of information about politics and community organizing that I had to really think through, so I wonder if young readers unfamiliar with these situations might struggle with this a bit. Also, isn't tagging illegal? It seems like Bella's exploits are being encouraged, which I found confusing. I can't imagine graffiti being tolerated in my neighborhood. 
What I really think: I love reading about different neighborhoods, and wish that more areas of the US incorporated housing with shops, schools, parks, and community services. Books like Chari's Karthik Delivers, Giles' Take Back the Block, Watson's This Side of Home, and Cartaya's The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora all describe these neighborhoods and the impact that they have on their communities. Readers unfamiliar with the urban landscape will find Unfadeable to be an interesting look at an unfamiliar environment, and those from similar neighborhoods will be glad to see a similar environment that they can compare to their own. 
 Ms. Yingling

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