Listen up: You’re about to get rocked by the fiercest, baddest all-girl hip-hop crew in the Twin Cities – or at least in the wealthy, white, Bible-thumping suburb of Holyhill, Minnesota. Our heroine, Esme Rockett (aka MC Ferocious) is a Jewish lesbian lyricist. In her crew, Esme’s got her BFFs Marcy (aka DJ SheStorm, the butchest straight girl in town) and Tess (aka The ConTessa, the pretty, popular powerhouse of a vocalist). But Esme’s feelings for her co-MC, Rowie (MC Rohini), a beautiful, brilliant, beguiling desi chick, are bound to get complicated. And before they know it, the queer hip-hop revolution Esme and her girls have exploded in Holyhill is on the line. (Summary from Goodreads) Amazon UK, US, CA
According to the back cover, this is a book all about sisterhood and love and hip hop. In other words it sounded like a typical coming of age story. I like those stories sometimes but most of the time I get frustrated because they have similar themes with a different name attached.
I can’t pinpoint why Sister Mischief was so different to this. Maybe because Esme was in love with a girl but the story wasn’t really about that? You completely felt how much she did love Rowie but her life didn’t begin and end with her. She was hurt and sad when they broke up, for a while afterwards as well, but she didn’t fall into a pit of despair as her whole life ended (Bella Swan, I’m looking at you). She had her friends and her dad and her life to be getting on with.
Her friends were so interesting as well. They were all so different to each other, not just in religion (a Protestant, a Catholic, a Jew and a Hindu walk into a bar) but in how they talked and how they reacted to things. They all had their things to deal with and their history with each other and Holyhill, it was all woven in very well together. I especially liked how religion and culture were brought up without being the source of all evil. Tess has to deal with being part of the same religion that is used as fuel for the hatred of bigots and Rowie has to come to terms with wanting to not lose touch with her culture in a place where being SWASP (Straight White Anglo Saxon Protestant) is the very vocal majority.
And these four girls and their relationships with their parents and each other were just the focus of the book. And you had important side plots (Esme’s forced outing, the belief that everything will be better in college, Mary Ashley being angry that Tess has moved away from the bible group, Rowie and Esme together) but the book didn’t focus too much on any of them to make them overshadow everything else.
I wasn’t such a fan of how heavy handed it could be with some issues. There was a conversation near the beginning where the four girls discussed whether it was okay for them (three white girls and one Indian girl) to be doing hip hop at all due to cultural appropriation. It was an interesting discussion definitely but it seemed to come out of nowhere a little, like the author was going ‘I did think about the issues and here’s proof’. That happens a couple more times, just enough for me to wonder if that scene/conversation was strictly necessary, but not enough to severely impact my enjoyment of the book.
And this last issue was completely personal to me, but I don’t really know that much about hip hop so I got lost a couple of times when the discussion got technical. That was just me though so I don’t really hold it against the book at all.
All in all, I give it four out of five stars. I read it in two hours and I really enjoyed it, but it’s not quite five stars for me. I’m always looking for LGBTQ+ books which have a main plot that isn’t all about coming out/homophobia so I was very pleased with this book.