Review by Darlene G.
Summary: Set in a North Carolina suburb, A Good Neighborhood examines the lives of the resides of Oak Knoll, a town that hasn’t changed much until recently when a new mini-mansion is built in the town. This sets off a dispute between the richest man in town Brad Whitman and his neighbor, a Valerie Alston-Holt, college professor and her son. Valerie, a widow, loves her garden, especially the large tree in her back yard. Her son Xavier, age 19, a classical guitarist, ready to attend college in California considers himself to be half-black as his mother is black and his deceased father, Tom, was white. When the new neighbors move in Xavier, known as Z, is outside helping his mom in the yard. Brad seeing this concludes, incorrectly that Z is hired help since he is black. Z corrects this mistake. Meanwhile, Z has been observing Brad’s teenage step-daughter, Juniper. As predicted Z and Juniper fall in love secretly. Valerie gets in a legal battle with Mr. Whitman concerning the large tree. She contends that it is being killed as a result of the construction of his home.
Review: Ms. Fowler develops the characters in a non-stereotypical manner although most folks will recognize the types of folks portrayed in the book. Valerie, Z, and Juniper are very likable individuals. Valerie is a bit more knowledgeable about the racial situation in the South than either of the lovebirds. Juniper has signed a purity statement with the family church although her stepfather has other plans for her when she graduates high school. She goes to work for him at his HVAC company and the tale unwinds from there. The storyline is predictable from the beginning making the reading experience less than great. This topic has been done repeatedly and unless younger readers are unfamiliar with race relations in the South it is trite.