“The Slant”, by Laura Williams, is the story of Lauren, a middle school girl struggling with identity. However, what sets Slant apart, is the combination of the universal social struggles of adolescence, with the complex and challenging issues that Lauren faces. Lauren, adopted from Korea, her sister Maia, adopted from China, her father, an American English professor obsessed with Shakespeare, and her mother who committed suicide, makes for a complex family identity. This combination of cultural history sets Lauren apart from her peers, particularly her neighbor, and best friend, Julie. Julie is wealthy, white, and, in Lauren’s opinion, the epitome of pretty. Although Julie is Lauren’s closest friend, it is difficult to imagine that she is able to understand Lauren’s struggle. On top of her hardships at home, Lauren is faced with racism from students at school who call her names such as ‘slant’, ‘chinko’ and ‘gook face’. Lauren’s hope is that plastic eye surgery will help her fit in. Though Lauren’s inner conflict is complex, her concerns are still what most middle-school girls are worried about, fitting into the social world. The writing style reflects the mind set of young girls, giving it a less appealing tone for older readers. However, the issues of racism, cultural history, class, and suicide are not frequently discussed in books written for middle school students. This book is accessible and has a positive message for young readers who may be dealing with similar challenges, or who are able to process those themes.
“Slant” by Laura E. Williams. Milkweed Editions, 2008.