American Street – Ibi Zoboi
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Pages: 324
Release Date: February 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5/5

Fabiola is a teenage girl who migrates from Haiti to Detroit with her mother. However, after they leave Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Fabiola’s mother is detained by US immigration and is sent to a detention centre in New Jersey, leaving Fabiola to go to Detroit on her own to live with her family. From then on, she has to adapt to her new life in west-side Detroit with her Aunt Jo and her three cousins Chantal, Primadonna (Donna) and Princess (Pri). Just as Fabiola starts to find her footing in this new world, a dangerous proposition presents itself, and she learns that freedom comes at a cost. Trapped at the crossroads of an impossible choice, will she pay the price for the American dream?


I enjoyed this book. I thought this was a very unique story that follows the life of a girl who has moved far away from home and has to navigate her way around her new family and her new life in the rough neighbourhood in Detroit, all whilst wandering if she will ever see her mother again. I liked the way that immigration is talked about in this book, from the perspective of people who are immigrants, especially Chantal who was born in Haiti but moved the Detroit when she was a small child.

‘Creole and Haiti stick to my insides like glue-it’s like my bones and muscles. But America is my skin, my eyes, and my breath. According to my papers, i’m not even supposed to be here. I’m not a citizen. I’m a “resident alien”. The borders don’t care if we’re all human and my heart pumps blood the same as everyone else’s.’ (pg. 117)

This story is told from the point of view of Fabiola and I really enjoyed her as a main character, I like how you got to see America from the eyes of someone who isn’t used to the culture. I also enjoyed Fabiola’s description of Haiti and Haitian culture and how she compares Haiti to America, from the different food to the Haitian slang that she uses. I feel like it shows the reader how much of a big culture change Fabiola had to adjust to and how daunting it was for her to move away from home, especially since she was by herself.

‘I miss rice and beans. I miss spicy stewed chicken…I miss the hot sun…and eating cold fresco with my friends…I miss my mother.’ (pg.192)

Although the book is told through Fabiola’s POV, there are chapters throughout the book that focus on other characters and are told from their POV. I really enjoyed those because it gives you a deeper understanding of each character, which I appreciated. I wish those chapters were longer though, because I did enjoy learning about all of the characters, especially the cousins.

There were many different themes that were woven into this story. Family was one of the main themes. I like the relationship between Fabiola and her cousins, I enjoyed the parts of the story that involved all of them being together and seeing Fabiola get more comfortable around them throughout the story. I like that as soon as she got to Detroit her cousins treated her like a fourth sister rather than just a guest and they all looked out for each other.

Another theme that was included in this story was the American Dream. I like that this book touches on the American dream because it shows that it’s not as easily obtainable or straightforward as it may seem. Fabiola and her mother wanted to come to America to ‘find a good life’ but from the get go, Fabiola found that it was harder than she imagined. Her aunt and cousins in Detroit weren’t living in a big mansion like she had seen on American TV, they didn’t have lots of money and they lived in a rough neighbourhood. Their situation wasn’t that much different from her own back in Haiti. Fabiola soon learns that being free and living the ‘American Dream’ comes with a price and throughout the book she is faced with a lot of decisions, and she has to decide if she wants to pay the price to live ‘a good life’.

I really enjoyed the aspects of religion and spirituality in this book. I learned a lot about Haitian Vodou and the different spirit guides that Fabiola believes in, and I just enjoyed reading about how she prayed to the spirit guides for her mother, prayed for her family and how she made choices based on the different spirit guides. I also liked how Fabiola sees her family and friends as a reflection of different spirit guides, I found it very interesting to read about.

Although I enjoyed majority of the book, I didn’t like the last few chapters. Everything that happened towards the end between Fabiola, Kasim and Dray I didn’t enjoy. I just felt like some parts were unnecessary. I also felt like the ending was very rushed, which was annoying. Towards the end of the book there were two big plot twists and then the book finishes a couple pages after; we didn’t get to see how things played out after the plot twists were revealed, which was disappointing.

Overall, I enjoyed the book. I thought the plot was original and I feel like a lot of people would be able to relate to Fabiola’s immigration situation. I enjoyed theme of family and I loved the characters of book. I just wished the ending of the book and the chapters that focused on the other characters were longer.

2 thoughts on “American Street Review

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