Review from A Place of Our Own Bookclub. To see more go to http://www.apooobooks.com/surviving-chadwick-phillip-wilhite
In Surviving Chadwick by Phillip Wilhite, I was captured from the first chapter by the male narrator, Isaiah Issacson. As the story opens, Isaiah has received the usual school brochure asking for a donation. He is about to throw the brochure in the trash, when a note falls from between the pages. It is from Jenaye, his only connection to Chadwick, with a request for him to attend a school reunion. Daydreaming, he decides to attend and pulls out a briefcase from under his bed to reflect on his journey to adulthood and Jenaye’s letter. I too wanted to be taken on the journey to find out about his connection to Jenaye and to a place that he held at bay but was never far from his mind. This is a mesmerizing story reflecting on events that Isaiah thought were not important at the time they happened, but in reality were a major turning point in determining the adult he is today.
The author takes us back to 1973, when 15 year-old Isaiah is awarded a scholarship to Chadwick, an elite boarding school. His parents, who migrated from the South for a better life, see this as a wonderful opportunity and opening a door for their son as they believed the Civil Rights dreams. Isaiah is not quite sure what the all this means, as he is leaving behind all that he is comfortable with; horning his basketball skills at a high school known as a stepping stone to the NBA, joining the black power movement, and his best friend Tee, who helps Isaiah navigate the Oakland urban culture. So allaying his fears, and knowing he can go home again, Isaiah takes his swagger to Chadwick and comes face-to-face with an elitist culture that he has no knowledge of. How will he survive in this environment and does he even care if he survives?
I enjoyed this coming-of-age story as Isaiah figures out who he is and what this world means to him. While Isaiah has the usual teenage concerns, a first love, learning how to take the best from his parents and mold it to his dreams, learning how to handle change, and learning which battles are worth fighting, the presentation will have you reminiscing of your teenage experiences. I thought that the approach and pace of the storyline gave it a fresh feel and lives beyond the year 1973 presented in the story.
I recommend this book to both teenagers and those beyond their teenage years as this is a well-written story that will engage all readers. I recommend that this book be included in public library and school library collections.
Reviewed by Beverly