Book Reviews: Deacon Locke Went to Prom
Nominated for the 2019-2020 South Carolina Young Adult Book Award
Deacon Locke is a sweet, very tall, socially awkward, eighteen-year-old who lives with his technophobe grandmother after years of constantly moving as his dad fled from one shady deal to another. In a last-ditch attempt to experience a normal high school rite of passage, Deacon takes his best friend to prom—that she is also his grandmother seems almost beside the point, at least until videos of them together at the prom go viral. Deacon suddenly finds himself having to navigate instant fame while simultaneously juggling first love and his worries about his grandmother’s increasing forgetfulness.
Deacon is a likeable narrator, full of self-deprecating humor. Pre-prom, Deacon is improbably old-fashioned with his lack of a cell phone, social media accounts, and Internet access. He believes (erroneously) that he has no friends outside of his grandmother. He is endearingly awkward as he takes ballroom dance classes at the YMCA with his grandmother and falls for the Lebanese instructor, Soraya, whom he begins to date. Post-prom, Deacon becomes a social media and reality TV star. At first he enjoys the attention, but he soon discovers the dark side of instant celebrity, especially as he learns of his grandmother’s dementia and the social media backlash directed at Soraya. This initially humorous coming-of-age story has a guy-friendly romance but deals with some serious issues in the second half, which darkens the tone somewhat.—Elizabeth Matson.
From Kirkus Reviews:
Deacon’s decision to take his grandmother to his senior prom results in unexpected fame.Since his father abandoned him at 16, Deacon’s caretaker grandmother, Jean, has become his best friend. So when Deacon finds the required elaborate “promposals” too intimidating and realizes Jean missed her own prom, he invites her instead. Jean’s insistence on dance lessons is a ploy to set Deacon up with the instructor, Soraya, a young woman with “a medium complexion” whom the white boy describes as “standing out from the typical pasty-faced Arkansan.” Soraya’s a senior at the local Islamic school, which she attends to honor her Lebanese heritage. Though romance slowly develops, Deacon still takes spunky Jean to the dance. Soon a video of their dancing goes viral. Deacon gets mostly positive social media feedback, but the attention also strains his relationship with Soraya, who becomes the target of some racially charged online bullying. The complications come thick and fast, but they wrap up extraordinarily quickly in the last 25 pages, as Deacon finds his way back to the people who matter most to him. Deacon’s present-tense narration reveals a kind and likable protagonist. A sweet though sometimes obvious lesson on staying true to oneself. (Fiction. 12-16)
From School Library Journal:
Gr 8 Up–When Deacon Locke can’t find a date for the senior prom, he decides to invite his grandmother Jean, who missed her own prom because her date (Deacon’s grandfather) was serving in the Vietnam War. Deacon has never been able to depend on his fly-by-night father, and his mother isn’t in the picture: Jean, with whom he has been living for the past two years, has been the sole rock in his life. When a video of the unlikely couple dancing at the prom goes viral, awkward, loner Deacon experiences his first taste of popularity. As he looks toward the future, he grapples with his newfound celebrity; pursues a relationship with his dance instructor, Soraya; and realizes that Jean may be dealing with dementia. While Deacon occasionally comes off as insensitive when it comes to race and gender (“The non-politically-correct part of my mind wonders if [Soraya] has an exotic accent”), he grows and develops as he learns of the bigotry that Soraya, who is Muslim, has confronted. The plot is somewhat predictable in places (Soraya and Deacon’s relationship is temporarily derailed when another suitor asks Soraya out right before Deacon can), and characterizations are a little thin. However, Deacon’s wryly self-deprecating voice will resonate with readers, and Katcher’s commentary on Internet fame rings true. Teens will enjoy this light but touching tale of maturation. VERDICT Those seeking coming-of-age stories with a bit of romance will be pleased with this quick, heartfelt read.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal