Summary: The Long Ride
The Long Ride by Marina Budhos is the story of three mixed-race girls in the 1970’s. Francesca, Jamila, and Josie are chosen to be part of a trial desegregated school experience.
All three girls live in a mostly white Queens neighborhood and have parents who’ve worked hard to get them into great schools in mostly white neighborhoods. Naturally, the parents worry about switching their daughters’ schools to one in a “bad” (read, mostly Black) neighborhood. Francesca’s parents reject the opportunity and move her to a private school instead. This leaves Josie and Jamila alone at the new school.
The girls soon realize that they’re out of their comfort zones. Josie and Jamila grow distant when Josie doesn’t make it into the same gifted kids program. The former becomes closer to the Spanish girls in her class. Then Jamila forms a new friendship with a Black boy, John, but because she’s half Black and half white, their burgeoning relationship must remain at school.
I listened to this one on audio and I liked it — it really takes off after the first 20% or so. The Long Ride is largely a meditation on the desegregation efforts in the 1970’s. However, it also heavily incorporates the new challenges of becoming a teen.
Francesca and Jamila become interested in boys early in the book with Jamila’s and John’s relationship getting quite emotionally intense. I enjoyed getting to know all three girls, but felt cheated out of Josie and Francesca’s personalities since the book is so focused on Jamila. The histories of all three parents — their love stories and journeys through life — also make for a consuming read.
I’m a sucker for middle-grade books set in New York so it added an extra layer of excitement to read this just before I went to New York. Especially so because I stayed just on the border of Long Island and Queens!
This is a slice of life novel; nothing BIG really happens except for the trouble Darren and John get into when they visit Jamila’s neighborhood. It also clearly reads like an “issue book” — written to tackle set topics: racism, finding identity as a mixed-race child, and desegregation in the 70’s.
For both these reasons, it starts off slowly and feels preachy at some points. It felt to me like the author was trying to educate me, which I didn’t mind too much. However, I can see how it can make the story stilted to some readers.
Overall: The Long Ride
The Long Ride by Marina Tamar Budhos is an exploration of what it means to mixed-race and American. This middle-grade novel zooms in on a school desegregation effort in 70’s Queens, New York. Yet, it’s not history-focused. Author Budhos also delves into navigating the early teens, dealing with first crushes, and maintaining friendships in the midst of changing circumstances.
If you enjoy middle-grade historical fiction and slice-of-life novels, The Long Ride may just be right for you.
Buy This Book
Have you read this book? What did you think of it? It wasn’t the best I’ve ever read, but it tackles an important topic and I would recommend it if you’re considering it. How do you feel about “issue books”? I’d love to know!