There are only two kinds of people in the world: The caught, and the uncaught. In UNFADEABLE, Indiana author, Maurice Broaddus, features both, and provides the reader with a thought-provoking story about the power, resilience, strength, and determination of young people, and how adults underestimate these rising voices.
This journey begins when we meet thirteen-year-old Isabella “Bella” Fades, a smart, confident brown girl with a black belt in bad attitude. Her salty nature can be blamed on losing both parents, hustling to survive, and dodging child protective services by hiding in an abandoned house with no electricity or running water. She inherited her mother’s talent as a tagger, and paints beautiful graffiti art around her neighborhood, under the pen name, UNFADEABLE.
It’s summertime, school’s out, and Bella chooses to attend a snooze-worthy neighborhood meeting for three reasons:
1. She can plug in her prepaid phone to charge it.
2. Free snacks and drinks.
3. To ask the community leaders, one who is Ms. Campbell, a lady who she likes, to invest in a neighborhood arts program to help combat summer boredom.
The main community leader refuses to take her seriously, and Bella’s frustration speaks for her, especially when it is revealed what the neighborhood money has been invested in. When an old man named M, who lives in her neighborhood, along with Aaries, a teenage boy M mentors, offers Bella the opportunity to get her questions answered by learning how to “follow the money trail,” Bella cautiously accepts the challenge.
Broaddus paints internal and external havoc in his main character’s life as she makes critical mistakes that not only put her in danger, but also threaten the well-being of M and Aaries. What starts as a simple request for an art program becomes a deep dive into a political swamp.
Threats, intimidation, even Bella’s worst fear become reality as she gets closer to revealing what happened to the funds that were designated for her neighborhood. The biggest reveal is in Bella’s transition, and how Broaddus fully develops her to keep those attributes that make her strong, and slowly strip away the layers of pain that keep her from moving forward.
I found it strange that Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary didn’t have the word “Unfadeable,” only unfadable, even though that definition would have fit. But the Urban Dictionary had UNFADEABLE and termed it as meaning unstoppable. I believe that to be the point Maurice Broaddus is making about our youth. They are unstoppable, and the worst thing we can do as adults, is not take them seriously.
Crystal Allen, a native of New Albany, Ind., is the author of five middle-grade books, all published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins. Her accolades include the 2011 Library Guild Selection of How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba-Sized Trophy, 2017-2018 Texas Bluebonnet List for The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, 2018 SCBWI Sid Fleischman Humor Award for The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: The Wall of Fame Game, and the 2021 Induction to the Texas Institute of Letters. She is a committee member of The Brown Bookshelf, Co-Director of Kindling Words East, and faculty member of Highlights for Children. Her forthcoming book, Between Two Brothers, will release in 2023. Crystal lives in Texas with her husband, Reggie, and two sons, Phillip, and Joshua.
Maurice Broaddus is an accidental teacher (at the Oaks Academy Middle School), an accidental librarian (the School Library Manager which is part of the IndyPL Shared System), and a purposeful community organizer (resident Afrofuturist at the Kheprw Institute). His work has appeared in Lightspeed Magazine, Weird Tales, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, Uncanny Magazine, with some of his stories having been collected in The Voices of Martyrs. His novels include the urban fantasy trilogy, The Knights of Breton Court, the steampunk novel, Pimp My Airship, and the middle grade detective novel series, The Usual Suspects. He co-authored the play Finding Home: Indiana at 200. His novellas include Buffalo Soldier, I Can Transform You, and Orgy of Souls. As an editor, he’s worked on the Dark Faith anthology series, People of Colo(u)r Destroy Horror, Fireside Magazine, and Apex Magazine. He lives and writes in Indianapolis. Learn more about him at MauriceBroaddus.com.
Monthly reviews of books written by Indiana authors are made possible by the Eugene and Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Awards and Indiana Humanities. Opinions expressed in this review are solely those of the reviewer, not any affiliated entity.