The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Alfred A. Knopf/Penguin Random House
Publication Date: September 19, 2017
Living in the 125th Street neighborhood of Harlem, Lolly’s life is populated by a vibrantly drawn, diverse cast of characters: his ma and her girlfriend Yvonne, his best friend Vega, the neighborhood kids at the community center where he attends after-school, and the young thugs who populate his neighborhood, pressuring him to join up in the wake of his older brother Jermaine’s gang-related death. Amidst these pressures and his still-raw grief at Jermaine’s death, Lolly finds solace in building fantastical, epic cityscapes out of the Lego bricks Yvonne brings home from her job as a security guard at a toy store. When his outsized buildings and imagination outgrow his apartment, community center director Mr. Ali lets him expand into the basement of the rec center. There, his Lego building attracts the attention of the other kids and especially Big Rose, a bullied girl with a prickly manner and a big heart, who may be on the autism spectrum but has no interest in being labeled autistic. Lolly and Big Rose form a tentative but meaningful bond based on mutual respect, even as he feels Vega withdrawing from him towards the pull of the streets.