‘Cashay’ has a startling beginning. Quickly the author brings us up to speed on Cashay’s life. The 13-year-old lives in the harsh world of Chicago’s Cabrini Green, where she shields her younger sister, Sashay, from drugs and guns, purposely flunking seventh grade to guide her through middle school. But at the end of the first chapter, Sashay is hit by a stray gang bullet. Sashay worries about swallowing her gum as Cashay sees “a line of blood the color of nail polish move from somewhere under Sashay,” puddling into a pool as Sashay’s eyes close. For the rest of the book, readers witness Cashay’s struggles and resilience as her mother begins a disastrous love affair that leads her back to drugs and the birth of an addicted preemie. Cashay deals with her anger and grief and learns to accept and trust the supporting adults who mean her well. What keeps this book from being an utter reality horror story? The poetic voice balances the bleakness, and the reader senses throughout that Cashay is a survivor; she only has to locate that power within herself.