OP-ED Book Reviews: Smash It! by Francina Simone


Madelyn Hutchinson

Hello everyone! I’m back! And I am so excited to talk about my newest review.

The book is called Smash It! by Francina Simone. Slight spoilers from here on out!

Let’s get started with the plot before I really dig into why I love this book. The plot is pretty simple, you see it a lot. Seventeen year old shy girl named Olivia, with two outgoing best friends and she decides that she wants to be more like the girl she knows herself to be on the inside, so she creates this “Fuck It” list.

Where everything on there is about her saying “fuck it” to things. It is because of this list that she joins the school rap musical, Othello, and gets a small role. She knows the role is small but she still works hard to get to know the character she plays.

Now, as per usual in every coming of age novel I have ever read, Smash It! Is chalk full of drama. I won’t get too far into it now, for fear of spoiling those
who actually want to read this book, but I will say it covers things like parents experimenting in infidelity, dating issues, body image issues, other parental issues and racial issues, just things of that sort.

Usually, this isn’t my cup of tea, I like fantasy stuff most of the time, but I’m going to tell you the story of how I came across this book, and why I decided to give it a chance. I was in a Barnes and Noble every book nerd’s dream, and I was carrying about fifty dollars to spend at this store, because my grandma is amazing and the manager at the Barnes and Noble near my house. So I was just walking around admiring the different lay-out and genuinely enjoying the store because it had been months since I was last there.

Anyway, on to the more important part of the story, I went over to this table that had a large “Support Local Authors!” sign and there was Smash It! Right
on top. Each book had its own little sticky note explaining who the author was and where they were from in Idaho, and so I read this sticky note. The first
thing I noticed was the fact that Francina was black.

Now, as any avid reader will tell you, it is pretty difficult to find books by people that aren’t white, not that there aren’t authors who aren’t white, it’s just that a lot of the time they don’t get their voices heard. Like at all. Unless you include Black History Month, and then all of a sudden all the bookstores are bringing out all the books by people of color and dusting them off.

Another thing, I love supporting local authors! It is so important to me to support local authors and just local places in general, aside from Barnes and Noble, I will always have a soft spot for that place. So I looked at this book and it already had two of the things ticked off my list: Local or small author, and it was written with a fresh perspective on our society. I decided to give it a shot, even though it wasn’t exactly my style and let me tell you, I am so happy I did.

First thing I noticed once I started to actually read the book: Almost the entire cast of characters we get are people of color! This was such a welcome surprise, because in other books, you may get like “the black best friend” or in general just like two black side characters who say a couple lines and the story moves on like they aren’t even there. Like I figured Olivia, the main character, would be black, I mean it’s plain as day on the front cover, but I was shocked that in the entirety of the cast there are maybe three people that are white, and they show up for like two pages and then they’re gone.

Second thing I noticed: How real each character felt. None of the characters felt flat or annoying to me in any way. None of them felt as though if they weren’t there the story would be the same, and that is such an important thing in writing! And these characters were talking and experiencing real issues. For example, Eli, one of Olivia’s best friends, is half Hebrew half Palestinian and because of that half of his family either ignores him or barely talks to him at all. He also is facing some real issues with his dad in general because his dad almost cheated on his mom. Or how Olivia is struggling with her friendships later on.

I won’t say any more, but these are things that really happen to people and it just felt refreshing to have characters to be put in real situations that, on some level, people can relate to.

Third and final thing I noticed: Someone finally mentioned how difficult high school can be! In almost every coming of age story I have ever read, almost none of them mention things like homework and how difficult it can be to juggle the things you like, like wanting to be in a musical, and trying to keep up with school work and other important things. On multiple occasions Olivia talks about how behind she is on homework because rehearsals can go until 9 o’clock and start right after
school. Or how she’s falling behind in band class because she doesn’t have time to practice. I remember getting so sick and tired of hearing teachers be like “join
extracurriculars” and then they would assign us too much homework for us to actually enjoy our work in the extracurricular activities.

Like, I only had four or five choir concerts throughout the year but it was still stressful for me to get the work done prior to the night of the concert because I would get back at like nine or ten and all I wanted to do was sleep. Anyway, to get back on topic, I really enjoyed this book, and it really is a wild ride. Like I said before, I didn’t want to go too far into the plot for fear of spoilers, but I will say this: Young adult authors have really mastered the ability to keep you on your toes and leave you wanting to read more.

Highly recommend Francina Simone’s Smash it! Also, she has a really cool youtube channel you all should check out, it’s just her name. And, if you’re still not sure about the book she reads the first three chapters on there.