Book Review: Finding Yvonne

Title: Finding Yvonne
Author: Brandy Colbert
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 276
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Since she was seven years old, Yvonne has had her trusted violin to keep her company, especially in those lonely days after her mother walked out on their family. But with graduation just around the corner, she is forced to face the hard truth that she just might not be good enough to attend a conservatory after high school.

Full of doubt about her future, and increasingly frustrated by her strained relationship with her successful but emotionally closed-off father, Yvonne meets a street musician and fellow violinist who understands her struggle. He’s mysterious, charming, and different from Warren, the familiar and reliable boy who has her heart. But when Yvonne becomes unexpectedly pregnant, she has to make the most difficult decision yet about her future.

Review: It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Brandy Colbert and her two other novels, so I couldn’t wait to get my hands on her newest release. Folks, Brandy’s winning streak continues. My plan was to read Finding Yvonne slowly, really allow myself to get lost in the novel, chew on all the literary goodness, and well…I spent last Friday night reading until I finished the novel.

Yvonne is at a crossroads in her life where she is trying to figure out what she wants to do with the rest of her life – to continue playing the violin as she thought she would or do something else. But what else would she do? It was this sense of displacement, this sense of confusion that really resonated about Yvonne’s character that really resonated with me. Teenagers today often feel like they need to have everything planned out by the time they graduate from high school so their senior year is one of tremendous pressure, when in reality, they still have the space to find themselves if they have the right folks supporting and guiding them. Unfortunately for Yvonne, she actually doesn’t as she’s not close to her father and her relationship to Warren is not defined at all. That leaves Yvonne is a space where she is struggling to find out who she is and what she wants, and this novel is the journey of her discovery of self. Yvonne often doesn’t make the smartest choices, but when she needs to, she does stand up for herself and makes her voice heard. I truly loved that about her and going on the journey with her as she takes control of her destiny and starts searching for what will be her bliss. So many folks, young and old, can relate to this journey of the self and it’s what really made the novel for me.

Another aspect of this novel, and one that Colbert does so well, is give a slice of what life is like of African Americans who live and navigate in white spaces. Yvonne attends a private school where she is basically a token; Yvonne’s father is a fine dining chef, as well as Warren; even Omar attended a prestigious music conservatory where he was one of very few African Americans. Colbert expertly explores the pressures these character’s face to living up to an “imagined” ideal that is placed on folks who survive in such spaces. This feeling is also what is confusing Yvonne as her father has put pressure on her to “not become a statistic” (who hasn’t heard that?!) so when she does “become a statistic” she has to deal with facing the disappointment of her father and other’s around her. But ultimately, Yvonne faces that truth head on and it’s what helps her grow. This aspect of dealing with these hard truths is what I love about Colbert’s work. Colbert is not afraid to make these pressures, these feelings, that many don’t talk about, front and center in her work. Her characters are trying finding their place in this crazy world and confront the obstacles that could really cause serious damage to one’s self esteem. Having grown up in that world (being a token) having these stories really show that there is no one “African American story” and I’m so glad that Colbert is here giving voice to these characters.