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what lane? by torrey maldonado

What Lane? by Torrey Maldonado

"STAY IN YOUR LANE." Stephen doesn't want to hear that--he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight, does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

In bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson highlights WHAT LANE? as an Essential Book for Discussing Racism with Kids. She says, “For anyone who’s ever been told to ‘stay in your lane,’ Maldonado’s poignant tale is sure to resonate… a wondrous coming-of-age story about blazing one’s own path.”

New York Times included WHAT LANE? in a roundup of 14 Best Anti-Racist Books Now

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Starred Reviews for What Lane?

* “In an NYC landscape deeply shaped by race, sixth grader Stephen struggles to speak his piece. . . . Maldonado pursues a story about biracial boyhood, healthy friendships, and self-discovery while gesturing toward the influence of social movements like Black Lives Matter in reshaping what accountable friendship looks like. Voiced in the creative language of NYC youth, the novel models what it means to embrace the power of self-awareness and relationships built on mutual respect. Bridges everyday racism and accountable allyship with sincerity.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

* “Engaging, timely novel. . . . Maldonado (Tight) paints a vivid, relatable picture of an adventurous boy learning the rewards and dangers of straying out of his lane against the backdrop of an unfair system that could see him killed or arrested for the behaviors his white peers easily engage in. The characters are warmly realistic, by turns impulsive and regretful. In relatively few words, Maldonado elucidates matters related to racial profiling, police violence against black people, and allyship, all through the eyes of a brave kid trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review

* “Maldonado depicts his young hero’s awakening to the ugly realities of contemporary American racism. Caught between his best friend Dan, and Dan’s racist cousin Chad; straddling the line between his overprotective, naive white mother and his realist, all-too-aware Black father; and doing his best to integrate his middle school friend group, biracial Stephen is finding it tricky to ‘stay wide in all lanes.’ . . . Maldonado uses a biracial adolescent boy’s perspective to draw his readers into an engaging story of identity and tough choices that will appeal to middle schoolers everywhere. An ideal choice for school book clubs and advisory.”
School Library Journal, starred review

“Sixth-graders Stephen and Dan are so close that they could be twins aside from their race difference, but that difference is beginning to matter to the outside world. . . . Presents an honest account of a Black boy who has to grow up faster than his white friends, all while wishing his friend groups could just be together regardless of race. . . . Makes the point that the frequency of racist encounters means they’re daunting yet mundane, and there is an interesting dynamic between Stephen’s Black father and white mother, who both want to protect their son but take different approaches. His father and friend Wes both tie in real life details about current events such as Tamir Rice’s shooting and the Black Lives Matter movement, which adds to the authenticity and could make this selection a discussion starter.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

See Torrey Reading What Lane?

What Lane? Read Aloud from Penguin Classroom on Vimeo.

    Torrey Maldonado author
an American Library Association's Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers.
a Kansas National Education Association's recommended book for Middle and High Schools.
on the Pennsylvania School Library Association’s Young Adult Top Forty reading-list.
the official book of the National Night Out Against Violence & Crime.
Maldonado chosen as "Top Ten 'New' Latino Authors to Watch (and Read)."
featured on The Brown Bookshelf as its Day 12 book as part of its Black History Month celebration.
Tight by Torrey Maldonado

* "Maldonado excels at depicting realistic and authentic interactions between middle school boys. An excellent addition to libraries with fans of David Barclay Moore's The Stars Beneath Our Feet, Jason Reynold's Ghost, and character-driven fiction."
--School Library Journal

"I was riveted by Bryan's journey, breaking down stereotypes and becoming his own kind of superhero. This, in and of itself, is not only Bryan's superpower but Maldonado's as well. Loved this book!"
-- Jacqueline Woodson, National Book Award-winning author of Brown Girl Dreaming 

  • Christopher Award
  • Washington Post Best Children's Book of the Year
  • NPR Best Book of the Year
  • ALA Notable 
  • ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant YA Readers
  • CCBC Choices 2019
  • ALSC Notable Children's Recordings
Buy the Book
Torrey Maldonado author Tight by Torrey Maldonado at Greenlight Bookstore Tight by Torrey Maldonado at Amazon Tight by Torrey Maldonado at Penguin Random House
Secret Saturdays by Torrey Maldonado

"Resonates with the authenticity of a preteen doing his best in an urban landscape that has taught him all he knows."
--Publishers Weekly


Buy the Book
Torrey Maldonado author Secret Satudays by Torrey Maldonado at Greenlight Bookstore Secret Satudays by Torrey Maldonado at Amazon
  • being the real you,
  • making tough choices,
  • changing friendships, trust, and...
  • balancing wanting to do what is right with what your surroundings tell you.
Click here to use this fun American Library Association Quick Pick to support Common Core State Standard instruction in all the major subjects and Anti-Bullying discussions.
Get it
        • Books with no curses and zero sex
        • Hooking kids to books
        • The emotional lives of teens
        • Bullying
        • Relationships
        • Turning boys into better men
        • Developing positive leaders
        • School life
        • City life
        • The power of parenting
One Death Nine Stories, an anthology with guest author Torrey Maldonado The Whole Library Handbook, an anthology with guest author Torrey Maldonado

We ran fast and I tried not to bust my butt because the ground was slippery with glass and garbage. Burned car parts. Broken bikes. Boxes with trash in them. We got to a window, and as scared as I was, I hopped in first because I still figured a dog might pop out of somewhere. Sean was right behind me. It was dark in the Grey House. The only light came in through the windows. I checked my watch and could barely see the time: 5:45 P.M. I caught something else. My palms were black like I had rubbed charcoal on them. The fire that burned the Grey House must’ve left ash, and it got on me when I climbed in the window. “This ain’t coming off,” I said, showing Sean my hands.

“Calm down. It’s on me too. We’ll wash it off later,” Sean said. All of a sudden, his face glowed like a lightbulb. I turned to see what he was looking at. A staircase. It had one step, then two steps missing, then another step, then three steps missing. The staircase was mostly stairless.

“Son, we need to climb that,” Sean said.

I had a huge smile and he knew why. I was The Man at climbing. I used to rock-climb up the three-story bread factory behind my building just for fun. I’d squeeze my fingers into cracks in the wall and grip my hands onto poked-out bricks and grab and yank myself up until I stood on the cracker factory roof.

We walked up staircase after staircase. On some floors, only half a staircase went up to the next floor. The other half was missing from the fire. When we found staircases like that, me and Sean walked up as far as we could, then tugged at wires and pipes hanging out walls to see if they felt strong enough to hold our weight. If they didn’t snap out the wall, we grabbed them and pulled ourselves to the next floor. We got to the fourteenth floor before we knew it. We looked for a staircase going up to the fifteenth floor but couldn’t find one. We wandered into this huge room full of factory machines. Dust on everything. Probably old equipment used back in the day. Light came in through busted windows. Sharp, broken glass stuck out window frames like they could slice somebody’s head off. While eyeing the room, I saw on the opposite side a staircase going up to the next floor. That’s when I spotted something that scared me. The floor between us and that staircase had huge holes in it. Everywhere. Like heavy equipment had fallen through it. We had to cross this holey floor to get to the staircase.

Sean moved farther into that room.

“Chill.” I grabbed his arm. “That floor’ll break.”

“Relax.” He snatched his arm and took another step to see if the floor was solid. He looked at his feet and waited. Nothing. My heart was beating hard. Sean took another step forward and stood still again for two seconds. Nothing happened. Sean took a few steps more into the room. From his new spot, he jumped up and down.

He looked at me and smiled. “See?” he said, waving me to come over. “It’s fine.”

I slowly stepped halfway to where he was.

“Keep coming!” he yelled.

I moved in closer.

“Now, follow me,” he said. He turned and took a step, and the floor broke right underneath him. His legs went straight down until he was showing only from the waist up. I grabbed his forearms type-fast and pulled. But his skin and my hands were slippery from that black charcoal stuff. Sean kept sliding down. He started crying, “Pull me up!”

I had never seen Sean so scared.

I reached for his T-shirt and caught some of it under his armpit. With my other hand, I grabbed a pipe built into the floor. Sean kept slipping deeper into the hole and stuff flashed through my head. Like Sean falling downstairs and breaking his leg. Him laid out with his skull cracked open and bleeding.

Sean’s eyes were shut tight and tears ran down his cheeks. He breathed so hard through his mouth that I thought he was having an asthma attack.

I gripped the pipe harder and pulled on his tee and started to cry. Sean came more out the hole. A second later, his hand was next to mine on the pipe. Soon we were laid on the floor, side by side.

Content copyright © 2009-2010. Torrey Maldonado. All rights reserved.