Hush Puppy by Lisa T. Cresswell
Idaho author Lisa T. Cresswell’s first traditionally published debut novel, Hush Puppy, is a brilliantly gutsy young adult coming-of-age story that doesn’t shy away from dealing with difficult themes.
Set in the small town of Carolville, North Carolina, Hush Puppy tells the story of Corrine, an intelligent and ambitious young girl about to enter her senior year of high school. Despite her poverty and the absence of her parents, Corrine finds support in her caring extended family and her academic achievements; she dreams of college and traveling the world outside of her backwater town, where issues of race and class still subtly dominate the landscape.
Soon, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn to the new boy in town, her white trash neighbor’s son, Jaime. Sensitive, intelligent, but insecure, Jaime is a poet trapped in his father’s dreams of high school football glory who must keep his creativity hidden. Together, Jaime and Corrine share their love of literature and dream of a better life away from the oppressive norms of Carolville.
But Jaime is naïve about the realities of racism in his community. He can’t understand that just because he doesn’t care that Corrine is black, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is so forgiving of their friendship. When tragedy strikes their small town, Jaime yet again seeks out Corrine to make things better for him. As she discovers the dire consequences that result and begins to see her dreams for the future dim and fade, Corrine is forced to ask herself if she was wrong about their relationship all along. Will she be able navigate the difficult waters of early adulthood, or has she unwittingly already made the misstep that will put her dreams out of reach forever?
Simple and stunning, Hush Puppy is an emotionally powerful story that will stay with readers long after they’ve closed the final page. Crisp, evocative prose and a refreshingly realistic black protagonist make this novel a standout among YA literature. This uncommon YA novel is highly recommended, especially for public and school libraries. The difficult topics the book so deftly addresses are relevant today, and even the day-to-day difficulties of the high school classroom are presented realistically and without dramatic overindulgence.
While there is some mature content in terms of thematic elements, there’s nothing objectionable or inappropriate in the novel. Rather, the harsh realities that Hush Puppy brings up present an ideal discussion point for difficult situations that young adults can encounter. Love, loss, poverty, and the legacies of racism are just a few of the complex topics brought up in the novel. Corrine manages to be both highly relatable and a surprisingly good role model for readers who may recognize some of the difficulties she faces as their own.
Hush Puppy is available in paperback and ebook formats from Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, and your local bookseller. For more information on the author and her work, including Hush Puppy discussion questions for teenage readers, visit her website at www.lisatcresswell.com
ENTERTAINER, March 2014