Sunday, October 4, 2020

Class Act (sequel to New Kid) by Jerry Craft

Class Act
is, quite simply, everything you could want in a sequel. Jordan Banks returns for his second year at the exclusive RAD (Riverdale Academy Day School) along with his friends Drew Ellis and Liam Landers. Though Jordan and Drew are two of the few African Americans at RAD, they are grappling with different issues. Jordan still would rather go to art school, but his mother insists he get an education at RAD, while his dad is a little more understanding. Jordan is also worried about his physical self. All the other boys are tall and more manly smelling, but Jordan is still much shorter, less developed and has no body odor, not even after a gym workout.  

Drew, on the other hand, returns to school taller and stronger. He also has a new hairstyle, one that some of the non-Black students can't keep themselves from touching no matter how often he asks them to stop. Drew is also having issues about being a Black scholarship student in a predominately white school. Drew, who lives with his hard working grandmother in Co-Op City, must two buses from one part of the Bronx to get to RAD in a wealthy section of the Bronx, while other students arrive by car or limo. What he sees begins to come to a head when his clueless principal tells Drew that RAD is making an effort to promote diversity, equality and inclusion and has adopted an urban sister school and would like Drew to show them around when the students visit. Their visit highlights for Drew the contrast between resources at RAD and their school, which lacks so much including a decent library and cafeteria.  

After he and Jordan visit very wealthy Liam over Thanksgiving break, Drew finds that he is having a hard time with his feelings of the unfairness of things and maintaining his friendship with Liam. As long as their friendship is on campus or at Liam's home, Drew feels uncomfortable. Can he find a way to navigate their friendship so that they are able to see, respect, and support each other mutually?

I loved New Kid so I was really anxious to read Class Act. But it is a great sequel and yet, it can stand alone. I liked the focus on Drew because it allowed Jerry Craft to center the story on him and what his life is like. Jordan is a smart, light-skinned, middle class African American who lives with loving parents; Liam is a smart, very rich, privileged, blond haired white kid who lives in a mansion with an absentee father and a socialite mother; by contrast, Drew is a smart, athletic, dark-skinned working class African American living with his loving grandmother. 

Beside these socioeconomic differences, these three kids also enable Craft to address issues of how differently people are treated based on their skin color. Jordan captures the way teachers and students treat him differently than how they treat Drew in one of his black and white two-page comic commentaries that are scattered through the story.

I was happy to see that Craft address the issue of unwanted hair touching after Drew grows his out. Jordan also illustrates this in his comic commentary. This is something that apparently white people do, but I don't quite understand why, I just know it's wrong. And yes, there are other cringe-worthy microaggressions throughout, especially thanks to Drew's nemesis Andy, who for a period has green skin and is teased about it. Would such an experience change a person? It should.

And while so much of this novel may sound heavy and serious, there is plenty of humor throughout. To begin with, at the beginning of every chapter is a parody of covers from other loved graphic novels, beginning with the Wimpy Kid, and including New Kid.  

I can't recommend this novel and its predecessor highly enough. The format is perfect, the message in spot on and resonates so well in today's world. Don't miss it and if you haven't read New Kid yet, what are you waiting for?

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an eARC received from Edelweiss+
Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, 
now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle.


  1. I've had NEW KID on my stack of books to read for such a long time, I'd forgotten it was there. With the sequel out along your enticing review, I will be finding time to dive into the story this month. The characters sound great. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  2. Hugely popular with my students, and better than a lot of the graphic novels. I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels-- I have trouble keeping character's names straight in text only situations. Have this on order, and my students can't wait.

  3. I really enjoyed your thorough review of Class Act. So much packed into this story. And yes, white people do touch the black people's hair -- which they really don't appreciate. So, I'm glad they highlighted this in the book. I didn't realize until the end that it was a graphic novel -- which kids really love! I am not a fan of graphic novels and have a hard time keeping things straight. But if they get kids excited about reading, I'm all for them. Thanks for sharing today.

  4. Oh, I'm so excited now! I loved New Kid, and I preordered Class Act a while back, so I should be getting a copy soon! I'm so glad it holds up to scrutiny—it definitely sounds like making Drew the protagonist allows for a very different yet deeply insightful story! Also, I loved those parodies for the chapter beginnings in New Kid (although I honestly rarely got the references), so I look forward to seeing those again! Thanks for the excellent, thoughtful review!

  5. I think I need to read both of these books. I think this is a great way to teach kids about racism and what things in life are really important. Thanks for the heads up.

  6. I didn't read your review because I have New Kid to read and didn't want any spoilers. I have heard a lot about book 1, but I have not heard much about book 2. Thanks for sharing! From the beginning part I read of the review it sounds amazing. :)


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