by Sukey HowardMarch, 2005
<b>Sukey's favorite</b> Powerful, raw, heart-wrenching, <b>Upstate</b>, Kalisha Buckanon's debut novel, takes you right onto the streets of Harlem, into the overcrowded schools, worn-down apartments, behind the walls of a New York state prison and into the lives of two teenagers aching with love for each other. Buckanon writes in Harlem street vernacular with a grammar of its own, rough, tough and harshly expressive. Hearing it read makes the language even stronger and the readers, Chadwick Bosemann and Heather Simms, are so good that you'll forget you're listening to actors. The story is told in letters between Natasha, just 16, and Antonio, 17, when he goes to jail for killing his father. Separated, they write to each other over the next 10 years about their most intimate feelings, their anger, confusion, hopes and dreams, frustrations and longings, his intense need to cling to her, her need to get out and on with life. Upstate is an extraordinary book and an extraordinary window into a reality most of us know little of.