Farrar Straus Giroux ISBN 9780374303235
YA Grades 9-12 Rating: 5
The 57 Bus is a moving story about two teenage boys from different parts of town with different beliefs. Sasha loves to read, makes up his own language, wears skirts, and refers to himself using the pronouns “they” and “them. Sasha has classified himself as agender. Richard has had some trouble in the past, but he is eager to help others. He likes to cut up and make people laugh, but also works hard to get good grades in school. Their brief encounter happens on one of the public buses when they’re heading home from school. Richard’s friends think it would be funny if Richard lit the sleeping Sasha’s skirt on fire. Richard, thinking it would be a harmless prank, doesn’t see the harm because he never thought Sasha would become engulfed in flames. Richard thought the little flame would just die out.
Dashka Slater has touched on some very sensitive and controversial subjects in this book: racism and confusion with gender identity. Sasha has struggled to fit in and realize who “they” are. Richard has had to make up for the bad decisions in his past and now he’s facing prison time for an act that he didn’t think completely through. Due to his actions, he could also potentially be charged for a hate crime. The boys’ families demonstrate struggles, strength, and forgiveness, as Richard’s prank doesn’t just affect Richard and Sasha–it also affects both of their families. This story affirms that people should have the right to be themselves, even if it’s confusing to others, and that nobody should ever be harmed for how they dress or because they are different.
There is some strong language; recommended for public and high school libraries.
Trina Chase, CLJ