Bookcase Project: Book 10 – Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon

Book 10: Upstate by Kalisha Buckhanon, John Murray, 2005.

This book was a really pleasant surprise. Again, another library sale purchases for a couple of silvers. It had some cracking reviews by the Independent, The Sunday Time, The Big Issue and People Magazine among others. So the story goes something like this. There’s this young black dude called Antonio and this young black gal called Natasha. They’re seventeen and head over heels in love. But there’s one problem. Antonio is being accused of killing his old man. The book is narrated by both characters through a series of letters that span from 1990 to 2000. At first, I was a bit out off by the whiny voices coming through, but then set my brain on play and realised that of course they’re going to be whiny, irritating teens they’ve seventeen for fucks sake! Buckhanon has, incredibly successfully, managed to let the characters grow through their letters to each other. They mature. The world keeps on turning. And I, as the reader, walked with them both. Quite soon in, Natasha finds it all too much. She is wanting to move on with her life. She has great prospects and desires a career and success. The way in which she puts this across to Antonio is often heartbreaking, and more than once I thought ‘what a bitch.’ Then again, I could see it from her perspective too. So the couple move apart and then close then apart again as the years rush by. Antonio tries on numerous attempts to better himself, but keeps falling back. One time however, he stays standing and it is such a relief when you can see him developing into this hugely sensitive, warm human being. I’m not going to give away the ending. It’ll ruin it for you. But it came as a bit of a shock. The twist in the tale though, is quite apparent from early on. It doesn’t spoil the book though.