Review: Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe

by Joli
Last Summer on State Street by Toya Wolfe Book Review

What an incredibly captivating story. I highly suggest adding this one to your TBR list! Read on for my full review of Last Summer on State Street.

The Summary

Even when we lose it all, we find the strength to rebuild.

Felicia “Fe Fe” Stevens is living with her vigilantly loving mother and older teenaged brother, whom she adores, in building 4950 of Chicago’s Robert Taylor Homes. It’s the summer of 1999, and her high-rise is next in line to be torn down by the Chicago Housing Authority. She, with the devout Precious Brown and Stacia Buchanan, daughter of a Gangster Disciple Queen-Pin, form a tentative trio and, for a brief moment, carve out for themselves a simple life of Double Dutch and innocence. But when Fe Fe welcomes a mysterious new friend, Tonya, into their fold, the dynamics shift, upending the lives of all four girls.

As their beloved neighborhood falls down around them, so too do their friendships and the structures of the four girls’ families. Fe Fe must make the painful decision of whom she can trust and whom she must let go. Decades later, as she remembers that fateful summer–just before her home was demolished, her life uprooted, and community forever changed–Fe Fe tries to make sense of the grief and fraught bonds that still haunt her and attempts to reclaim the love that never left.

Profound, reverent, and uplifting, Landmarks explores the risk of connection against the backdrop of racist institutions, the restorative power of knowing and claiming one’s own past, and those defining relationships which form the heartbeat of our lives. Interweaving moments of reckoning and sustaining grace, debut author Toya Wolfe has crafted an era-defining story of finding a home — both in one’s history and in one’s self.

My Review

First of all, thank you to William Morrow and Goodreads for giving away copies of this book. I was totally delighted to win this one. After reading it, I feel even more delighted to have Last Summer on State Street on my shelves!

This story captivated me from page one. I can remember being a 12-year-old girl, and to be that age in that situation…how incredibly difficult.

Fe Fe was really easy to fall in love with and care for. She’s just a little girl longing for some stability and friendship, yet she has to constantly navigate her perilous living situation. Seeing the world through her eyes was so heartbreaking at times, but her child-like outlook on everything was beautiful.

There’s so much in this book, from the failure of the police to protect and serve in the way they’re supposed to, to child abuse, to education and the importance of having teachers and adults in the lives of kids who actually care. There’s a lot going on, but it doesn’t overwhelm this relatively short book. To watch Fe Fe navigate everything with strength and positivity was pretty incredible.

Last Summer on State Street is a story about a girl who’s just trying to win academically, play with her friends, love her family, and thrive in a safe home. Unfortunately, her chaotic, gang-member-filled apartment building doesn’t provide that for her. Instead, it’s mayhem.

Despite all the dark, difficult themes in this book, the light that shines throughout it kept me needing to read. There were several nights in a row that I just couldn’t stop, because I had to find out what happened to Fe Fe. I highly recommend reading it! I also recommend reading/listening to this interview with the author, Toya Wolfe, even though you have to enter your email. She grew up in the same projects she sets the book in, and it’s just an awesome interview.

5 stars from me! | Amazon | Goodreads

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