REVIEW and EXCERPT
K My Name is Kendra
by Kamichi Jackson
K My Name is Kendra by Kamichi Jackson is currently on tour with Enchanted Book Promotions. The tour stops here today for my review and an excerpt. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.
Fifteen-year-old Kendra James’ life begins to spiral out of control with the return of her long-lost runaway sister Meisha, and the visit of a young celebrity uncle with questionable intentions. Things take a particular turn for the worse when that uncle exploits Kendra’s loneliness and untreated depression and makes a move on her that sends her world into a tailspin from which she’s not sure she’ll ever recover. Will she survive this tragedy ... or will she hit rock-bottom before anyone even notices?
I remember the exact day I fell in love with Double Dutch. I was about seven years old, and me, Nita, and some of the girls we used to hang out with had just come back from this multicultural summer festival being held at the city park on the other side of town. It was kind of lame, but we went because everyone else did, and it was something to do for the first three days of summer.
This particular day, there was a Double Dutch competition. Teams of girls battled all afternoon and into the early evening, until it was finally down to just the two best groups. After the hottest tricks, turns, and jumps I’d ever seen in my life, one team was declared the winner, and each girl was given a small trophy to take home.
Me, Nita, and some of our other friends from the neighborhood decided that we wanted to jump like the teams we’d watched compete that day. We started that same night and kept it up for pretty much the whole summer, trying our best to copy what we’d seen those girls do at the festival. We weren’t very good at first, but after a few weeks of practicing, we kind of got the hang of it.
By the end of the summer, I had gotten really good at it, and within a few months I was competing with some of the other girls in my neighborhood for the title of Double-Dutch Block Champion. It wasn’t easy, because most of the girls were older and had been jumping longer. Even still, I somehow managed to win. There was no trophy because it was just a block competition, but the owner of the bodega down the street from the playground where we jumped donated a brand new set of double-dutch ropes to us, and I did get to keep those. I opened them up right away for my victory jump, which I had to do while singing the official Double-Dutch Block Champion Victory Song one of the older girls had made up.
I don’t remember many of the words anymore, but the chorus was easy:
K my name is Kendra
K my name is Kendra
starts with a K
K my name is Kendra
starts with a K
I jumped and I sang and I jumped and I sang, and it was the happiest day of my life ever.
I want to go back to that day.
I want to go back to when my life was about jumping double-dutch in the middle of the parking lot, buying bomb pops from the ice cream truck with the wack music, plotting against the older kids because they ran us younger kids out of the big playground at the end of our street, and racing to be home by the time Mama stopped calling our names from the porch or else.
I want to go back.
I’m afraid to close my eyes when I go to bed now.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]
Praise for the Book
"This is a great title for discussion groups in a variety of settings, and Jackson provides thought-provoking questions that are appropriate for teens and will help them express their own thoughts and concerns not only about Kendra's story, but perhaps their own. Adults working in settings with teens in abusive situations will find a window to teen perspective in this engaging story as well." ~ Cecily Wolfe
"Loved it! Read it completely through in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down." ~ Anonymous
"I honestly couldn't put this book down. The author brings out Kendra in such a realistic and down to earth manner. I didn't think I could finish it cover to cover in just two days but I really couldn't stop reading. Highly highly recommend it!!" ~ Amazon Customer
"This emotionally powerful novel gets right to the essence of what a young adult novel should be, empathetically exploring the experience of a teenage girl. [...] An excellent read for any girl who feels misunderstood, or for readers that remember what it felt like to be confused and hurt, but hopeful as they moved toward adulthood." ~ Publishers Weekly
"I LOVED K My Name is Kendra! I read the first half of the book on my way out of town on a weekend trip, and couldn't wait for my return trip home to find out what happened in the second half. Have Mercy ! The author's writing style is phenomenal. Definitely recommend this book." ~ Green Pepper
By Lynda Dickson
This book gives us a look inside the mind of fifteen-year-old Kendra, an aspiring author whose poem brings her mental state into question. Then, the sudden reappearance of her sister Meisha, after a ten-year absence, brings a long-standing family mystery to the fore. Meanwhile, Kendra must learn to cope with her mother's rigid rules, a mix-up with her friend Nita, the persistent attention of cute Deondre, a close call with one of her brother's associates, unwanted advances from her uncle, and the family conflict resulting from Meisha's return. The one thing keeping her grounded is her writing sessions with her English teacher. But things will have to get worse before they can get any better.
Kendra has an authentic teenage voice and displays just the right amount of naivety for her age. You often feel like grabbing her by the shoulders, shaking her, and saying, "What were you thinking!" And then giving her a hug and asking her why she didn't talk to anyone about it. I just wish we got the chance to read the poem that started it all. Even though she hints at having suicidal thoughts, Kendra doesn't seem to have any problems until after the initial scene.
An emotional look at family secrets and the damage they can cause.
Includes reading group discussion questions at the end.
Warnings: sexual references, sexual assault (not explicit).
Some of My Favorite Lines
"'It’s not like I’m not looking for God,' I shrug. 'I just don’t think he’s anywhere in those buildings. I’ll find him one day. On my own.'"
"Every now and then that girl leaves me speechless."
"... maybe it’s because the fact that I can’t tell anyone means something about it is just not right."
"I’m crying now, because I know what’s going to happen next. And even though I kick and scream and fight when he grabs me and pushes me down onto his bed, I also know there’s no way I’m getting out of here without it happening."
"I jumped and I sang and I jumped and I sang, and it was the happiest day of my life ever. I want to go back to that day."
"Mama can read me like a book, and she senses right off when something isn’t right."
"Good people make bad mistakes sometimes and you have to find it in your heart to forgive them when they do."
"I’m so tired of keeping this secret of mine that I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop the words from spilling out."
"... unless someone’s a writer I don’t think they’ll get it, but I love the way it sounds when I flip through the pages of my notepad. I always write longhand, in pen, and because I press down so hard on the paper, it makes this crinkly sound as I turn each page. I can’t help but smile. I feel so good right now."
"When I’m scribbling, I feel weightless and free."
"It’s amazing how one innocent change in plans can trigger a whole series of disastrous events that tear a family apart."
"Weird how you can suddenly remember things you’ve completely forgotten from years ago."
"If going to therapy and talking about my issues could help me get things straight in my head and help me be that strong woman, then I didn’t see anything crazy about that."
"When I finally do write my first novel, I’m going to be real about the ending. No matter what happens in the beginning of the book, or even the middle, I’m just going to be real. I’m not going to resolve all my characters’ problems by the final page. I’m not going to wrap everything up all nice and neat like some lame feelgood movie, because most of the time real life just doesn’t happen that way."
"... she doesn’t have a lot of time to think about the bad moments our family still goes through. Which is good. That’s the way life should be when you’re thirteen, that’s my personal opinion."
"I’m still going to be that phenomenal woman I read about in Maya Angelou’s poetry."
About the Author
In addition to K My Name is Kendra, Kamichi Jackson is the author of an ebook entitled Where Present Meets Past (originally available as part of the now-defunct Amazon Shorts Program), the middle reader book You’re Too Much, Reggie Brown, a forthcoming adult novel entitled The Brownstone, two unproduced screenplays, and several short stories. Kamichi has made numerous appearances in support of her work, among them the Baltimore Book Festival. When not writing, Kamichi is likely off somewhere singing karaoke. The South Norwalk, Connecticut native currently resides in Northern Virginia with family.