Shortie Like Mine
by Ni-Ni Simone
Kindle e-Book, 232 pages
Published August 1, 2008 by Kensington (Also available in paperback)
Genre: Urban Fiction, Realistic Fiction
Awards: YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Young
Adult Readers, 2010
MLA: Simone, Ni-Ni. Shortie Like Mine. New York: Kensington, 2008. Kindle file. ISBN-13: 978-0758281814. e-Book, $8.99.
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Sixteen-year-old Seven McKnight knows she’s fierce – but she’s also a teenager. Even though most of the time she’s proud to be the thickest girl in her crew, her frenemies and sometimes even her family tease her about her size, which embarrasses Seven enough to make her question her own confidence. She’s also all kinds of smart – whether she’s hitting the books or hitting the streets, Seven always seems to know what’s up. So when the school’s star basketball player suddenly notices her (even though he’s dating the leader of her clique and notorious mean girl Deeyah), Seven isn’t sure what to do, and she doesn’t like it. It’s bad enough that Josiah is the hottest guy in school, but he also seems to really like her, and she’s into him too. When Deeyah plays Josiah with his worst enemy, Seven jumps at the chance to finally make Josiah her man, even though she risks tearing her clique apart.
Meanwhile, Seven’s twin sister Toi sneaks out of their window every night while their mom is working her second job to hang with a much-older drug dealer, and Seven is forced to make another choice. She knows that her sister is headed for trouble, but she can’t stop Toi without telling her mom what’s going on. The situation only gets worse as Toi finds herself in jail because of her shady boyfriend, and Seven must decide between trusting or betraying her sister.
Deeyah starts the rumor mill, Toi can’t seem to get anything right, Seven’s dad shows up again after leaving years ago to start a new family, and Josiah wants more out of their relationship than Seven is ready to give. Seven knows she needs to be more open with the people who care about her most, but she’s afraid that speaking up will only lead to more trouble.
“Everybody always told me that at sixteen I was still a kid and that boys should be the last thing on my mind. That I wouldn’t and didn’t know what real love was, and I guess at this moment, the very moment when I should’ve felt grown and handled myself like the woman I needed to become, I didn’t. I was a little girl and I said and did nothing. [Josiah] turned away from the door and left. Now I knew for sure that I’d ran him away.”What’s a fly girl like Seven to do?
VerdictSeven is such a great protagonist. She’s a good girl with a kind heart even though she doesn’t always make the best decisions, and I really felt like I was inside her (funny, saucy, clever) head as I was reading this book. Even though I couldn’t directly relate to Seven’s life, familiar themes are definitely present here that will resonate no matter where you’re from. Seven isn’t afraid to speak her mind about the little things, but the big things trip her up. She eventually discovers that sometimes the risk of making the wrong decision outweighs the consequences of choosing not to make a decision at all. The supporting characters fill in the story very well, especially Cousin Shake (Seven's middle-aged, widower cousin who lives with and watches over the family while Seven's mother works) and her ten-year-old brother Man-Man, both of whom provide pitch-perfect comic relief. I’m glad I chose Shortie Like Mine for my first urban YA fiction read, and I definitely recommend it (and any of Ni-Ni Simone’s books, many of which share characters with this book) for teens 13 and up.
There's a lot of great hip-hop and R&B in Shortie Like Mine. Ni-Ni Simone seems to really like Ciara, Brandy, and Bow Wow in particular, but there's lots of other great songs mentioned in the book as well. I'm personally partial to Cousin Shake's taste in music -- he likes more old-school rap, like Run DMC and Eric B & Rakim -- and Seven and her friends go back and forth about whether or not it's "cool." (I literally LOL'd when they make fun of Cousin Shake for going to a Ma$e concert because I definitely went to see him in Pittsburgh around the time this book was published.) Anyway, I made a YouTube mix of most of the songs mentioned in Shortie Like Mine, with the original music videos when possible. It's pretty great, so definitely check it out.