Jacqueline Woodson has built a career writing books for adolescent readers, like her 2014 memoir in verse, Brown Girl Dreaming, which won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Her new book is a coming-of-age novel made for adults. Melancholy but not maudlin, Another Brooklyn tells the story of August, a black girl growing up in 1970s Bushwick with an absentee mother, a father drawn to the Nation of Islam, and three best friends. Together the foursome try to convince one another that they are special, while navigating a neighborhood that threatens them with everything from dope fiends to abusive relatives to rapists lurking in stairwells. Woodson’s unsparing story of a girl becoming a woman recalls some of the genre’s all-time greats: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Bluest Eye and especially, with its darkly poetic language, The House on Mango Street. And any adult who’s reflected on childhood pain will relate to August and her friends “trying to dream themselves out. As though there was someplace other than this place. As though there was another Brooklyn.”
This appears in the August 22, 2016 issue of TIME.