I'll be honest - whenever I hear about child victims in the media, I am horrified and uncomfortable. This is why I thought I would hate Leaving Atlanta, written by Tayari Jones, which takes place during a two-year period during which African-American kids were being abducted and killed (you can google the Atlanta child murders to find out more about the actual case). Tayari Jones tackles this terrifying and uncertain time from the perspectives of three fifth graders: Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green, and Octavia Harrison. What makes this novel such a success is the fact that Jones gets the fifth grade humor and prioritizing to a tee. Yes, the subject of the novel is frightening, but there's still a lot of light parts to it - things that you'll read and think of either yourself, or a younger sibling, or maybe even your children. Kids have an amazing way of dealing with trauma - and they can be hilarious. The novel is also really skillfully written - not only does Jones use three different narrators, but she writes from three different points of view (first, second, and third). It's really an amazing book and I completely recommend it - it's got a great combo of crime, humor, mystery, childhood all wrapped up into one (and it's based on real events, which I think is a plus). For a concise and comprehensible review, I thought I'd just run down each part individually. Part 1 Part I is written from a close third-person perspective as we are introduced to Tasha Baxter, who is not among the "popular" kids, but nor is she one of the "losers" like Octavia. She occupies a place in fifth grade hierarchy that a lot of us can commiserate with - she strives for approval from the cliqueish and pretty girls, Forsythia and Monica, while she tries to figure out why Jashante who, Monica reminds us as she lowers her voice, "lives in the projects" (40) and is thus an outcast, keeps looking at her and calling her "Fancy Girl". While Tasha is preoccupied with fifth grade politics, we get some insight into her parents' strange behavior: they won't let the girls talk while the news is on and they become strict and irrational about curfews and staying out. When Jashante goes missing and is suspected of being another victim of the Atlanta Child Killer, Tasha feels both responsible and horrified. What is most successful about Part I of the novel is that Jones navigates the unspoken stress of the parents - who know about the murders, and know about the risks to their children - while juxtaposing it to the normal preoccupations of an awkward, fifth grade girl like Tasha. We see just how much the kids understand what is happening, but how children don't dwell on serial murder the way that adults do. Jones is really great at capturing that innocence. Part 2 If you're familiar with the Atlanta Child murders, then you know that most of the victims were little boys - this is what makes Rodney Green's section so heartbreaking. Rodney is a bit of a geek, and his section is written in second person. For example: "You are in sight of the bus stop when you become aware of the regular thump of footsteps on cold red clay" (107). Even though the section is in second person, Rodney is a withdrawn and quiet kid who is extremely intellectual, and Jones reflects that in the way he analyzes his day-to-day life. What is most compelling about this section is that Rodney is abducted - but his outcome is unknown. He comes face to face with the killer - and still allows the man to convince him to get in the car. Because this section is written in second-person, you as the reader feel as if you are making the decision to get in the car with the man you know is not a cop. It makes for some very tense storytelling. Part 3 Part 3 is written in first person from the perspective of Octavia, one of the darkest and poorest girls in school - and the most unpopular. The other kids only speak to her when the popular girls, Forsynthia and Monica, have rejected them. Octavia has no friends and a fractured home life - her mother raises her alone, and her father lives far away with another family. Octavia seems to be the most aware of what is happening - and she and her mother have in-depth conversations about her mother's decision to send her away to leave with her absentee father (for her safety). There is a lot of ambiguity in this section - we're unsure if Octavia has encountered the murderer, or if she's merely having visions, but either way, Octavia is definitely the most sympathetic character, alienated and - she feels - abandoned. The good-bye scene between herself and her mother (because her mother wants her to have a better life - not only safe, but with more opportunities than she can provide) is really beautiful. In summation, I can't recommend this novel enough. It's really fantastically written, and it's very gripping. You might think that a fifth grader's POV would be annoying after a hundred pages, but I'm telling you that Jones is consistently great - and there's enough intrigue and mystery to keep you interested. Not to mention, the characters are easy to get invested in so you want to keep reading. If you give it a shot, please let me know what you thought!