March 1st, 2016

A Review of Emma Shevah’s Dream on, Amber (SourceBooks, 2015)

A Review of Emma Shevah’s Dream on, Amber (SourceBooks, 2015)


This book is another one of those that I’ve been compelled to read as my nieces and nephews are growing older. Emma Shevah’s Dream on, Amber is targeted at middle grade audiences and follows the travails of the titular Amber as she navigates the always shark-infected waters of school. As per my routine, I’ll let Barnes and Noble fill us in on some narrative details: “My name is Amber Alessandra Leola Kimiko Miyamoto. I have no idea why my parents gave me all those hideous names but they must have wanted to ruin my life, and you know what? They did an amazing job… As a half-Japanese, half-Italian girl with a ridiculous name, Amber's not feeling molto bene (very good) about making friends at her new school. But the hardest thing about being Amber is that a part of her is missing. Her dad. He left when she was little and he isn't coming back. Not for her first day of middle school and not for her little sister's birthday. So Amber will have to dream up a way for the Miyamoto sisters to make it on their own.” Beyond the basics provided here, the novel is also set in the UK, which makes for a different cultural context concerning mixed race identity and adolescent development. Amber’s biggest antagonist in this work is a fierce classmate named Joanne, who begins to bully Amber not long after Amber bullies Joanne’s younger brother, who himself had been bullying Amber’s younger sister Bella (*phew*). Amber is also a very gifted artist. When she is forced to enter a contest put on by her school, it becomes evident that Amber finds considerable fulfillment in her artistic endeavors. Naturally, Amber also begins to explore fledgling romantic interests, as she develops a crush on a classmate who is at first only known as Locker Boy (due to the proximity of his locker to hers). Another issue emerges when Amber becomes insecure over her inability to keep up with her classmates on social media. Thus, she takes on the deplorable task of cleaning her grandmother’s cat litter trays in order to save up the cash to buy a new phone, one that would be able to use applications and download data. On a personal note, my phone is also too arcane to handle data or applications, so I need to “upgrade” as well. But I digress! Shevah keeps a nuanced enough approach to the novel’s central issue, which is the fact that Amber and Bella’s father abandoned them when they were very young. The novel provides no easy answers about parental abandonment, and this element is perhaps one of the most compelling parts of this work, which seeks to keep a youthful reader audience interested, while also retaining the complexity of the themes and issues it presents. The production values of Shevah’s book also corresponds with the content, as there are effective and creative uses of images that appear along the borders and openings of chapters. Finally, and perhaps, most importantly, the novel’s exploration of mixed race themes for growing children evidences the obvious awareness of the burgeoning multiracial populations being raised both in the UK and elsewhere.

Our Author Emma Shevah!
Buy the Book Here:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dream-on-amber-emma-shevah/1119090161