Patrice Williams was happy living in Georgia with her grandmother, then her mother lured her to Chicago and ended up in jail. Living in the projects, Patrice is an easy target for everyone. Not only won't she stand up for herself, she cares about her grades--unlike her classmates. But that draws the attention of Monty Freeman, another eighth grader who asks Patrice to tutor his little brother. When Monty becomes her guardian angel, Patrice begins to think something stronger than friendship might be growing between them. Still, nothing will stop her from applying for a scholarship at prestigious Dogwood Academy--except her mother.
Standing Against the Wind by Traci L. Jones is about one girl’s struggle to overcome several external obstacles in order to achieve a better life for herself. At 14 years-old Patrice is living a life that others have forced upon her. Her mother is in jail, her aunt, who she lives with, is working two jobs, which leaves Patrice to cook and clean, take care of her cousins everyday, and her older sister is irresponsible. Patrice, is smart and works very hard to ensure she gets good grades. She is also very shy Even though I liked Patrice as a character, I often wondered whether or not a 14 year-old dealing with all the things she was dealing with could really be that perfect. Yet, I kept rooting for her throughout the story hoping that things would turn out right in the end.
I also liked Monty, a boy who lived in Patrice’s building in Chicago. Monty unlike the crew he hangs with does not tease Patrice. In fact, her asks her to tutor his younger brother. It is through the interaction that occurs during the tutoring session that Monty and Patrice become friends, and Monty also begins doing his own homework and improves dramatically in school. With Monty’s help Patrice is able to overcome some of her shyness and their relationships grows over the course of the story.
While I did enjoy this story, I think that Jones’ choice of third person limited point of view was odd. Had she chosen first person instead I think I would have been more inclined to feel a stronger connection with Patrice than I had. I also felt that the story was just a little too pat, even though Jones did throw in a couple of tense moments. One was when Monty’s friends cornered Patrice in the stairwell, and another when Monty managed to get money for Patrice to travel to her mother’s prison. Both incidents were tense for different reasons and added to the overall conflicts Patrice faced.
Overall, I would recommend this story for my middle school students. Standing Against the Wind sends a clear message that a person with dreams can achieve them if he/she perseveres and works hard.