Last Updated on March 9, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 969
With his school friend Teddy, Trevor’s tendency for mischief begins to escalate. At the mall one day, they figure out an exciting heist: If they go when the shops are closed but the cinema is still open, they can snatch things from behind the shop counters without anybody noticing.
Soon, they’re regular visitors to one closed shop in particular—a stationery store with a rack of liquor-filled chocolates just close enough to be in their reach. Every weekend for a month, the two get drunk off the stolen chocolates without incident.
Eventually, their luck runs out. They’re snatching chocolates one Saturday night when a mall cop sees Trevor with his whole arm stuck through the shop’s protective grate, a fistful of chocolates in hand. A chase ensues, and Trevor and Teddy both flee.
They come to a fork in the road where one path leads to another road and the other to a dead end with a chain-link fence. Trevor, knowing there’s a hole in the fence just big enough to squeeze through, tries to convince Teddy to follow him. Teddy, doubtful, goes the other way. After successfully wedging himself through the fence, Trevor runs home and waits for Teddy. When he doesn’t arrive, Trevor runs to his house to see if he has gone there instead, but his friend is still missing. At school on Monday, Teddy is conspicuously absent.
After school on Monday, Teddy’s parents stop by Trevor’s house to speak to his mom. Patricia opens the door, and they tell her that their son has been arrested for shoplifting. As Trevor eavesdrops, he knows one thing for certain—there’s no convincing Patricia that he wasn’t involved.
At school the next day, Trevor is called in to speak to the principal. They ask if he knows any white kids who hang out with Teddy. Confused, Trevor says he doesn’t. When the principal shows him security footage of Teddy and his unnamed white friend, Trevor is even more baffled—he’s there, on the tape, committing the crime right next to his friend. But because camera footage can’t easily adjust for light and dark tones at the same time, it has exposed Teddy clearly and washed Trevor all the way out. Trevor knows he is on the footage, but to the rest of the world, the tape shows an unknown white boy.
By the time Trevor is in his last year of high school, his business as the tuck shop lunch-order guy has evolved. With the help of a computer furnished by Patricia and a CD writer from a friend, he has begun selling pirated CDs he makes at home. Business is so good that he has friends selling CDs for him on the side.
Faced with the prospect of going to yet another school dance alone, Trevor’s romantic angst begins to grow. Tom, one of his employees, offers him a tempting proposition: In exchange for a better cut of the profits, he’ll set Trevor up with a beautiful local girl as his date. Skeptical, Trevor agrees, and Tom introduces him to his friend Babiki. True to his word, she’s gorgeous. Trevor is floored by her beauty, and can barely muster up the courage to talk to her.
As the dance approaches, Trevor begins to anxiously prepare. He realizes he has never taken a girl out on a date like this before, and the pressure to make everything perfect is overwhelming. He has his hair relaxed and cornrowed, buys a new outfit, and even borrows a car from Abel, who works as a mechanic.
When the night finally comes, he drives Babiki to the dance. They arrive, and her behavior begins to perplex him—she won’t get out of the car. He tries to convince her, but she responds to everything he says with a simple “no.”
Trevor goes inside to find his friend Bongani, hopeful that he might be able to convince Babiki to join in the fun. Soon, other students begin to gather, and Trevor is mortified, because all anybody can talk about is their shock that someone this beautiful would come to the dance with him. His embarrassment is amplified further when Bongani tells him something he probably should have known already: Babiki isn’t responding to him because she doesn’t speak any English.
In chapters 13 and 14, Trevor grapples with amplified versions of problems he has confronted before. He watches someone else get punished for a transgression he participated equally in, and he fails to communicate adequately with a girl he likes.
When Trevor and Teddy are caught pilfering chocolates through the mall shop’s grate, he sees for the first time the way that the legal system can naturally privilege those with lighter skin. Because Teddy is arrested and Trevor isn’t, nobody involved can tie him to the crime. They soon discover the security footage, but nobody can identify him.
In this case, the mechanism of privilege is so literal that it almost reads like a metaphor designed to illustrate this exact concept—because the security camera selectively exposes Teddy’s dark skin, Trevor’s lighter skin becomes so washed out that he looks like someone else entirely. Because everybody looks at the camera and sees a white man, it doesn’t occur to them to even question Trevor about his possible involvement.
In chapter 14, when Tom sets up Trevor—now a successful entrepreneur—with his beautiful friend Babiki for the upcoming dance, Trevor yet again becomes so fixated on planning his next move that he fails to really communicate with her. This time, the consequences are less tragic and more comic: Trevor has failed to notice that she doesn’t speak English.