Genre: Contemporary YA
Seventeen-year-old Jamil Ramos never expected his mama’s deathbed confession to be that his dad is actually alive in Charleston, South Carolina. Jamil grew up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz.
Now, with the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together byTuesday, Jamil decides to hitchhike to South Carolina over the weekend to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name –Leon Ramos.
Jamil relies on the kindness of the strangers he meets-a gay teen kicked out of his home, a runaway prostitute, and a street musician-as he makes his way across Florida and Georgia trying to avoid the cops along the way. But when Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped. That trumpet was supposed to be his ticket for a scholarship, the only way out of poverty his mama could give him. Lost and alone without it, Jamil wonders if finding his father is worth risking his future.
First 250 Words:
Theodore, Alabama~ June
The day my mama died I'd been sitting there, wondering what I was gonna do, just like I had for the last three days of her coma. The hospice lady said I should tell mama it was all right to let go, but I didn't want to. I wanted her to sit up in bed and tell me what the hell she was thinking when she said I wasn't really her son. Who else's son would I be? Hadn't she been with me every single day of my life? All seventeen years of it. I remembered her in almost every one of them. She was my mom as sure as August in Alabama is miserable hot, as sure as honey sticks to your fingers. Why would she say she wasn’t?
"Jamil," she whispered to me, ‘cause the emphysema had stolen most of her raspy voice. "I need to tell you something."
"It's OK, Mama. I know you wished you'd never smoked."
She done told me that about a million times. Made me swear on my immortal soul I'd never do it. I couldn't tell her I already had. It’d crush her. She wanted so bad to believe I was better than other kids who sneaked smokes out of their mama’s purses.
"It's not that."
She raised a bony hand for me to hold, her nails like claws they'd gotten so long.
“Sometimes people do the best they can, but it ain’t no good,” she said.