Ninth Grade Blues
Ninth Grade Blues follows four teens through the adventures and misadventures, ups and downs of life in the first year of high school. They contend with classes and tests, worry about going out on dates, struggle with not being able to drive, and dread being called on by teachers they do not like.
Interweaving first person stories are told by:
Luke a shy, hard working, poorly dressed boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Luke is mediocre at basketball, mediocre at baseball, and mediocre at school. But he has hidden talents in science--he is a budding fisherman, hunter, and naturalist-- and he is even appealing to some girls, unbeknownst to himself.
Elly sociable and friendly, Elly worries about getting a boy to like her. She has chubby legs, frizzy hair, and a few excess pounds gained over the summer. However, she is also a top notch student. Elly has her life mapped out, all the way through a big church wedding (groom to be determined later) and a nice house in the suburbs.
Marcus a freshman superstar, Marcus plays football and basketball at the varsity level and has his sights set on a D-I college scholarship. He worries about having to choose between playing in the NBA and the NFL. Marcus regards himself as God's gift to women, and caroms through a series of irate girlfriends while he blows off his classes.
Mia a smart, dedicated girl who gets straight A's and will definitely go to college. Her first-generation Mexican-American parents are hard working and intent on matching her up with a nice Hispanic boy. But Mia and Luke begin studying together, and very soon, Mia develops other opinions about where her heart lies.
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About the Author
Four ninth-graders navigate demanding teachers, family conflicts, and new relationships in a debut novel for young teens.
It's the first day of school for four ninth-graders. Introvert Luke dreads it. Cocky athlete Marcus can't wait to make his mark in a football game. Well-to-do Elly and hardworking Mia are eager to excel. The lives of the teens intersect in first period Honors English, and as the year progresses, all four narrate their own journeys through the highs and lows of teachers, family, friendships, and dates. Elly, a white girl, fears that she'll never have a boyfriend because she thinks she's "chubby." When a first, clandestine date ends in a sloppy kiss, she worries she'll never find real romance. Luke, also white, has internalized the low expectations of those who see only his poverty and dysfunctional family. His English teacher recognizes his potential; a science instructor makes him a target of ridicule. (Ingram, an English high school teacher, doesn't sugarcoat the fact that some instructors don't belong in the profession.) Black teen Marcus, from a well-off family, is used to being admired on and off the football field and doesn't understand why his self-absorption is a turnoff. Mia, a second-generation Mexican-American, has faced prejudice and is determined to prove "I belong here." A sweetly blossoming relationship between Luke, whose father is a bigot, and Mia, whose dad distrusts whites, seems destined to make them the Romeo and Juliet of the group. Ingram approaches this territory with a knowing and sympathetic eye, giving each teen an authentic voice expressed in a lively flow of alternating, journal-style chapters. (At one point Marcus muses: "I can't believe Joshua's attitude, it's like he's given up on pro football. It seems like everybody I was around last week had a negative attitude.") For gritty content, readers should look elsewhere--no sex, drugs, or binge-drinking here. But these teens' everyday interactions, doubts, and triumphs ring true, and readers should want to find out what happens to them next in Ingram's upcoming second novel, Tenth Grade Angst.
An author deftly mines his own experiences as a teacher to create diverse and relatable characters facing their first year in high school.