The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
Publication Date: October 17, 2017
TW: violence against LGBTQ+ teens, homophobia, transphobia, & fire
I read this one for my YA Fiction class this semester and was blown away and figured I would write a full review on this blog. I also tend to only review contemporary or romance books on the blog and want to start diversifying that.
I think it is best going into the novel knowing very little about it, that is how I went into it. I did not even realize it was a true story until I read the synopsis. Yes, I am aware it is in the title, but in small font!! and I was sick when I checked it out from the library!!
But, if you want a bit more, this book follows two teens living in Oakland, California whose chance encounter changed both their lives. Sasha is a white, agender teen who goes to a small private school. While Richard is black and just started attending a different high school. They end up on the same bus and Richard accidentally (we will never know exactly if this was an accident or not, but that is not the point of the story) set’s Sasha’s skirt on fire. What follows is a look at how this event changes their lives, but also a stark look at our criminal justice system, gender, and teenagers.
WHAT I LOVED (to be honest since this is a true story about a tragic event it feels a bit weird to say I loved anything about this, so this is what I loved about the book):
- Dashka Slater is a journalist and you can tell. She weaves together details and complex ideas into a narrative that is unbiased and educational.
- This writes this into a gripping narrative. I could not put this book down. I read it in two sittings.
- The chapters are short and some are just tidbits of information rather than information on the teens, but this just added to the complexity of the narrative and provides a full picture of the event
- She also does not take a side and presents each side fairly
- Learning more about Oakland, California. I live in California and had never heard of this event. These teens are a few years younger than me. I wish I had heard about this while it was happening.
- Although I am happy to say I did already know what “hella” and “hecka” meant.
- I just love learning about people and different families. The fact that this is a true story makes every action hit harder than if these were characters.
- seeing two very different families experience the same tragedy, but on different ends of it was interesting
- Sasha’s family. I loved seeing their reaction to Richard and their willingness to forgive.
- Richard’s family. They struggled, but were still so open and loving.
- I honestly cannot say enough good things about this book. This book won a Stonewall Award and it is so well deserved.
- I had to read books that won awards from different genres for this class and honestly only picked this one up because on Goodreads people marked it as a true crime and I needed something in this genre.
- This 100% is making it onto my top books of the year
WHAT I DID NOT LOVE:
- After reading a few teen reviews it was clear that a few of them were confused by the nonlinear timeline. This did not bother me, but since this is a book written for teens, their comprehension of the story is most important and worth noting.
- Honestly nothing else, I had no exceptions for this book and it was phenomenal.
5/5 stars (if you couldn’t tell)
Goodreads link: The 57 Bus
Thanks for reading!