A Good Kind of Trouble

Book review by
Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media
A Good Kind of Trouble Book Poster Image
Girl learns to be brave in triumphant coming-of-age tale.

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Kids say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

In its introduction of Black Lives Matter, this book places that movement in a long tradition of American progressive thought, linking James Baldwin, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Positive Messages

It gets better! There will always be trouble: There is the kind that finds you and the kind you make when you stand up for your values. When something's bothering you, take a deep breath. Remind yourself, "This too shall pass," and do what you know is right.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Positive representations at many levels, presented skillfully. Main character, Shayla, and her best friends are a multiracial trio who call themselves "the United Nations." Shayla's mother and father are loving, involved, supportive. She, her parents, and her sister have good relationships. The teachers are presented as diverse individual personalities, interested in growth of their students. 

Violence & Scariness

No violence between characters, but description of a Black Lives Matter rally (in response to a shooting by police) that results in unrest in the street, broken windows, arrests. Some discussion of shootings but no detailed description.


A father uses word "damn" as an expression of anger and frustration during a discussion of a black woman shot by the police. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramée, tells the story of a middle school girl's political awakening during her transition from child to teen. Police shootings of black people in the news, a trial, and the Black Lives Matter movement complicate 12-year-old Shayla's sense of identity as one of the few black kids in her middle school. Shayla's evolving understanding of the world puts strain on her relationship with her multiracial group of friends from elementary school. It also forces her to leave behind an approach to life that was focused on staying out of trouble, and to start standing up for what she believes. A father says "damn" during a discussion about a black woman shot by the police. There's a description of a Black Lives Matter rally (in response to a police shooting) that results in unrest in the street, broken windows, and arrests. There's a slobbery kiss at the school dance, when a group of kids sets a boy up to kiss a girl. The kiss is not romantic; it's presented as drama between kids who still believe the opposite sex is sort of gross.

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User Reviews

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Teen, 13 years old Written bySydnigy November 9, 2019


It was okay. Too much drama and talk about crushes, a little bit about puberty. Definitely a girls book.
Kid, 12 years old April 8, 2019

Super Unoriginal and Unrealistically Dramatic...

I personally did not like this book. I had read Blended, and I thought this looked similar. What a disappointment! Even before the second chapter I knew that th... Continue reading

What's the story?

In A GOOD KIND OF TROUBLE, 12-year-old Shayla is trying hard to adjust to middle school, but it's complicated. Shayla, who is African American, has two best friends: Isabella, who's Puerto Rican American, and Julia, who's Japanese American. They've been inseparable since elementary school, and now they have no classes together. Each of them feels the pressure to socialize with cliques made up of people in the same ethnic group. The science teacher has given Shayla a lab partner who intimidates her. Her mom doesn't let her wear makeup like some of the other girls and even restricts her cell phone use. Boys and girls are starting to notice each other, with all the drama that brings. Further complicating Shayla's growing understanding of her place in the world, there have been shootings of black people by local police, and Black Lives Matter protests in their town. Until now, Shayla's dominant approach to life has been to stay away from trouble. But are some kinds of trouble worth the risk? 

Is it any good?

This triumphant debut novel depicts the emotional roller coaster of middle school with humor and optimism. In A Good Kind of Trouble, readers meet a lovable main character we can feel sorry for, and then cheer on through win after win. Author Lisa Moore Ramée vividly evokes how terrible it feels when the principal gets on your case, you get stuck with an undesirable lab partner, or the boy you have a crush on likes your best friend. She also captures how great it feels when you get picked for the track team or get included in your big sister's grown-up world, or when your mom shows you she really understands your problems. Ramée also successfully portrays another universal adolescent experience: the moment a young person begins to form complex moral ideas about how the larger world operates.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the meaning of friendship in A Good Kind of Trouble. Middle school threatens to pull apart longtime friends Shayla, Isabella, and Julia. Have you ever grown apart from a friend? Do you have friends you've kept even after moving or changing schools? Besides doing stuff together, what does it mean to be a friend?

  • Every few chapters, the author gives us a sentence or two from Shayla's journal, reflections on the events of the chapter. Since the story is already told from Shayla's point of view, why do you think the author chose to add the journal entries?

  • Shayla's mother has taught her to keep out of trouble. But when Shayla gets in trouble with the principal for wearing a black armband to support Black Lives Matter, her mother takes her side. Why does her mother do that?

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