The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah
Ghetto-born, Winter is the young, wealthy daughter of a prominent Brooklyn drug-dealing family. Quick-witted, sexy, and business-minded, she knows and loves the streets like the curves of her own body. But when a cold Winter wind blows her life in a direction she doesn't want to go, her street smarts and seductive skills are put to the test of a lifetime. Unwilling to lose, this ghetto girl will do anything to stay on top.
Disclaimer: The Coldest Winter Ever is a novel with some very adult scenes and topics. This is definitely for older, more mature teens and adults.
This novel's harsh realities were almost painful to read. Winter's perspective is so twisted she can't see straight, and everyone around her is either as blind as she is, or trying to protect her. This novel is a roller coaster that drags you through the ups and downs of Winter's life. If you want a novel that will have you up at 3 a.m., dying to know what happens next, and a novel that you have to chew on for a day or so to fully grasp, this is definitely it.
Winter Santiaga is an incredibly complicated character. While her personality and perspective are shallow and materialistic, what she represents is something much deeper. Winter represents everything wrong with the current generation of youth, specifically black youth. She can't see past her own world of drugs, crime, and material possessions. She doesn't understand the value of working, learning, or caring for other people. For her, school is a fashion show, and her whole life is focused on looking better than her peers. This is all encouraged by her mother.
The fact that I can't remember Winter's mother's name is a testament to how shallow her character was and how little family meant in this novel. While it is apparent that Winter's mother loves her husband and daughters, she steers them all completely wrong. She instills in her daughters ideas that money and physical beauty are the only things important in life, that richer means better, and that a woman's job is to be beautiful. While she occasionally cares emotionally for Winter, we never see her care for Winter's younger sisters this way. It seems that the family is, for the most part, separated.
Ricky Santiaga, Winter's father, is slightly better. While he is more level-headed, he allows his silly wife to steer him wrong. Although it seems he wants to be there for his family emotionally, he has no time, because he's busy running a huge illegal drug business. He encourages materialism in his daughters, because this is the only way he can show his love for them. Unlike Winter's mother, he does want a better life for her, moving his family out of Brooklyn, and telling her to marry a doctor or a lawyer. However, he never suggests that Winter should go to school and try to become a doctor or a lawyer.
Bullet, Winter's love interest for a time, is just plain ignorant. He tries to fill some ever-present need to feel masculine with Winter's devotion and affection. Mostly, though, he sees her as a possession, one that he's finally earned with money. In the end, he's just a scared little boy who covets others' possessions, and tries to get them by dealing drugs.
Midnight seems like the only character in the book with some sort or perspective, other than Sister Souljah herself, who plays a minor role. Born in Sudan, he sees the world much differently than the locals. While still quite sexist himself, he at least tries to get Winter to respect herself and dress appropriately. He even introduces her to Sister Souljah, who can help Winter find her way. (Winter is too screwed up to take advantage of this.) He keeps his hands clean of any connections to actual drugs, and makes money as a sort of assistant to Santiaga.
This novel really represents a terrible mentality that some people live in. Winter is constantly disrespecting herself, and cares about no one but herself. When her family is all but destroyed, she moves on without a shedding tear, only thinking of herself. Winter's story is wildly interesting and infinitely sad, on a base level, and a universal one.
I highly recommend this book. If you're old enough and mature enough to read some very adult scenes, and understand the messages embedded in it, I definitely suggest you grab a copy. You will not be disappointed.
Character Development: 8/10
I will be reviewing Midnight by Sister Souljah next Thursday. It's listed as a sequel but plot-wise it has absolutely nothing in common with The Coldest Winter Ever, except Midnight.
P.S. Our contest for your choice of either Played or Jason and Kyra, both by Dana Davidson, ends tomorrow so hurry! hurry! hurry!