The 57 Bus ~ Dashka Slater

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

Rating: 5/5

Trigger warning for violence towards LGBT kids.

This non-fiction story about two teens in Oakland, CA is absolutely heartbreaking and so necessary. This tells the story of Sasha, a transgender teen and senior in High School, middle class and white, who loves wearing skirts. And it also tells the story of Richard, a 15 year old black male who has struggled with school on and off. Their lives cross in an unexpected way when they are riding the 57 bus one afternoon and Richard lights Sasha’s skirt on fire on a dare.

This story puts these two stories together through the accounts of their family friends, the news, online stories, and more. This book is so carefully written to give as much as an unbiased perspective as possible, and I feel that Slater paid careful attention to both Richard and Sasha in showing both positive and negative ways in which their lives were affected by this incident.

Their backgrounds both happen to be more complicated than one would expect, and it’s important to show both sides of the story when it’s more than what it appears to be. The incident happened in November 2013, and I for one don’t remember hearing anything about it, despite being at a liberal arts college in North Carolina at the time. I’m glad this is geared towards teens as well, as clearly if these kinds of experiences are being lived by teens, it’s important to talk to them about it.

This is one of my favorite reads this year, and I loved the pacing and writing style. Slater writes in almost a journalistic style, combining different sources together and keeping the chapters succinct. I almost felt like it was a page turner, as I kept hoping to find out what happened to both Sasha and Richard and hoping for the best for them both. This book is great for building empathy.

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