Cover image for What lane?
What lane?
Physical Description:
125 pages ; 22 cm.
Biracial sixth-grader Stephen questions the limitations society puts on him after he notices the way strangers treat him when he hangs out with his white friends and learns about the Black Lives Matter movement.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available

On Order



"STAY IN YOUR LANE." Stephen doesn't want to hear that--he wants to have no lane.

Anything his friends can do, Stephen should be able to do too, right? So when they dare each other to sneak into an abandoned building, he doesn't think it's his lane, but he goes. Here's the thing, though: Can he do everything his friends can? Lately, he's not so sure. As a mixed kid, he feels like he's living in two worlds with different rules--and he's been noticing that strangers treat him differently than his white friends . . .

So what'll he do? Hold on tight as Stephen swerves in and out of lanes to find out which are his--and who should be with him.

Torrey Maldonado, author of the highly acclaimed Tight , does a masterful job showing a young boy coming of age in a racially split world, trying to blaze a way to be his best self.

Author Notes

Torrey Maldonado (, the author of the critically acclaimed Tight and Secret Saturdays , is a teacher in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised. His books reflect his students' and his experiences.

Reviews 4

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5--8--Taking his title from a fictional baller's mantra, Maldonado depicts his young hero's awakening to the ugly realities of contemporary American racism. Caught between his best friend Dan, and Dan's racist cousin Chad; straddling the line between his overprotective, naive white mother and his realist, all-too-aware Black father; and doing his best to integrate his middle school friend group, biracial Stephen is finding it tricky to "stay wide in all lanes." With his mother unwilling to admit the real perils her Black son faces outside their home, Stephen nonetheless discovers the Black Lives Matter movement at his school, and begins processing the insidious racism that he faces daily. Whether he's handling daily interactions with local shopkeepers, or with the passersby on the street when he is fake fighting his white best friend, or dealing with the escalating aggression of Chad's racist behavior, Stephen manages to avoid being pushed into one narrow, race-defined path. Popular with kids of all backgrounds, Stephen works to make his friends more accepting of each other, while making himself less susceptible to the sometimes irresponsible whims of his classmates. VERDICT Maldonado uses a biracial adolescent boy's perspective to draw his readers into an engaging story of identity and tough choices that will appeal to middle schoolers everywhere. An ideal choice for school book clubs and advisory.--Jane Barrer, United Nations International School, New York City

Publisher's Weekly Review

In this engaging, timely novel, sixth grader Stephen is growing up in Brooklyn; he loves "superheroes, fantasy, sci-fi" and basketball, as well as hanging out with his best friend Dan, the same as he always has. But though his white mother calls him "mixed," since he's half black and half white, Stephen's beginning to realize the world now sees him as "what they imagine or what the media teaches them to think about Black men." In situations where Dan, who is white, is considered harmless, Stephen gets in trouble for doing the very same things--and being perceived as trouble can have dire consequences. Maldonado (Tight) paints a vivid, relatable picture of an adventurous boy learning the rewards and dangers of straying out of his lane against the backdrop of an unfair system that could see him killed or arrested for the behaviors his white peers easily engage in. The characters are warmly realistic, by turns impulsive and regretful. In relatively few words, Maldonado elucidates matters related to racial profiling, police violence against black people, and allyship, all through the eyes of a brave kid trying to figure out who he is and where he belongs. Ages 10--up. (Apr.)

Kirkus Review

In an NYC landscape deeply shaped by race, sixth grader Stephen struggles to speak his piece. "Since I was little, it's been hard to speak up," says Stephen. He's half African American and half white, but even still, most people just say he's black. Alongside his "white-white" best friend, Dan, he's deeply into fantasy, science fiction, and superheroes like the new Spider-Man, Miles Morales. When Dan's cousin Chad arrives on the scene, however, things take a turn. Chad has a rep for trespassing, a penchant for contradicting Stephen, and, most wack of all, believes "they shoulda kept Spider-Man white." For Stephen to separate himself means he must be willing to step out against that part of himself that believes going along works, if only for the current moment. After all, isn't that how you are supposed to be--in every lane, able to do whatever, with anyone and everyone? Wes, a black friend, thinks Stephen should just embrace the lane with his black and brown classmates instead of "grimy heads" like Chad. How will Stephen deal? Maldonado pursues a story about biracial boyhood, healthy friendships, and self-discovery while gesturing toward the influence of social movements like Black Lives Matter in reshaping what accountable friendship looks like. Voiced in the creative language of NYC youth, the novel models what it means to embrace the power of self-awareness and relationships built on mutual respect. Bridges everyday racism and accountable allyship with sincerity. (Fiction. 10-14) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Booklist Review

Mixed-race sixth-grader Stephen loves comic books, especially the new Spider-Man featuring Miles Morales, and he loves spending time in New York City with his friends Dan and Wes. But when Dan's contentious cousin Chad moves nearby and joins their group, the newcomer's dislike for Stephen causes him to notice that some people treat him differently than they treat Dan, who is white. As Stephen discusses his feelings with his African American father, he learns about the Black Lives Matter movement and comes to realize that race will always affect people's perceptions of him. Short chapters provide a fast pace for middle-grade readers. As Stephen, with the support of his parents, faces discrimination in an unfair world, Maldonado (Tight, 2018) explores race and coming of age through a story of boyhood friendships. The relationships between Stephen and his buddies hit home in their realism, presenting strong, positive bonds between the boys. A worthy addition to middle-grade collections.