Eb didn’t mean to mess up Flow’s brand-new shoes, and Flow would never hit a girl, but in Kelly J. Baptist’s Eb & Flow, an accident leads to angry words, then a fistfight and then a 10-day suspension from school for seventh graders Ebony (Eb) and De’Kari (Flow). As they stare down two weeks at home, where they’ll be surrounded by parents, grandparents, siblings, cousins, chores, homework and a whole lot of time to think, Eb and Flow must find a way to explain to their families and friends—and to themselves—what really happened.
During the suspension, Flow works through a list of chores from his mom and sneaks over to the rec center to swim. (His passion for the pool is why he likes to be called Flow.) Meanwhile, Eb is stuck at her grandmother’s house, even though her mom only lives a few miles away. She has to babysit her nephew, and she can’t even have her phone, because her grandma took it away.
With each passing day, the situation between Eb and Flow evolves and escalates. At first, readers have only a murky awareness of the fight and the circumstances leading up to it, but Baptist slowly and brilliantly peels back the layers of Eb’s and Flow’s motivations and histories. A video of the altercation gets shared among their classmates, siblings and friends, and Eb and Flow tussle over the ways they’re each responsible for what happened. Each revelation forces readers to see the two characters anew.
Baptist writes Eb & Flow in fluid free verse that alternates between Eb’s and Flow’s perspectives. The suspension gives the novel its structure, with each day composing one chapter. Baptist also skillfully highlights parallels between Eb’s and Flow’s lives, then braids them together in a realistic, satisfying conclusion. Expertly crafted with two wonderfully complex characters at its core, Eb & Flow is a masterful, moving middle grade novel.