A review by theliteraryphoenix
American Street, by Ibi Zoboi

emotional tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes


 Whelp. That was an ending I didn’t anticipate.

For my first book by Ibi Zoboi, American Street hit hard! In a good way, but also in a sad way. I quickly fell in love with Fabiola “Fabulous” Toussaint. From the way her dialogue is written, to her vibrant internal monologue, to her flow of emotions and determination and love and fear… Fabiola is a beautiful multi-faceted character and the perfect one to be telling this story.

From the first pages of the book, the world challenges Fabiola. Upon entering the United States, her mother is detained in immigration. Detroit is not quite the place she imagined. Despite an excellent education in Haiti, she has to navigate a new school with a slightly different way of doing things and she has to navigate the rules of the West Side. Meanwhile, everyone seems determined to keep as much information from her as possible – they want her to live a good life and stay out of the bad parts of their world. But Fabiola will do anything to get her mother back.

For me, the characters in this story are its greatest strength, and since American Street is an excellent book, that’s saying a lot. Each one is deeply developed, with their own story that slowly unravels around Fabiola. They each have their own motives and their own secrets. The plot takes you through a few unexpected twists, but those twists are all that much stronger because of the way the characters shine.

Reader be warned, there is also a lot of difficult content in American Street. Most prominent, to me, is the toxic relationship between two characters (that includes physical abuse) and murder by police. There’s a lot of joyful moments in American Street, but there are also quite a few bad moments. Be prepared for both.

I enjoyed reading this book and it will definitely be one I add to my “to buy” list, because I could read it again. The world is vibrant, real, and alive. There’s important social themes addressed in American Street, and characters that stick with you. It may not be a book with a happy ending, but it is a book with an impactful one. 

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