The Hula-Hoopin’ Queen
Published in 2014, the heyday of hula hooping.
This is kind of a weird book. The main character, Kameeka, has basically double-booked herself. It's the day of the birthday party of her neighbor who she's very close to and loves dearly, but on the same day, she has been challenged to a hula hooping contest by a blowhard other girl named Jamara. Since she loves her neighbor, she helps prepare the cake and the house for the party, but accidentally sets the oven temperature 100 degrees too low, which makes the cake not cook properly. "It looks like someone sat on it." And they're out of sugar, so she goes to the store to get sugar, taking a hula hoop with her because that's how she rolls. On the way back, she sees Jamara hula hooping on the corner with another girl, and Jamara calls her out and she is unable to resist the urge to fight in non-mortal hula hooping combat with her. When the baker leaves his job, she is reminded about the party, and she panics, losing the contest, and runs home.
Her mom thinks hula hooping is worthless. Kameeka admits to her neighbor that the lack of cake is her fault. They put some frosting and strawberries on a doughnut and give it to the neighbor. The neighbor says, "Now, wait. You said you were hula hooping? I used to hula hoop!" and all the old ladies start hula hooping, and then everybody hula hoops and it's a hula hooping party.
I don't understand what the message of this book is. I'm pretty sure it's not a bad message. The main character makes a mistake, unable to repress her urge to fight this other girl who's egging her on, and owns up to her mistake and totally admits that she was in the wrong, which is wonderful. I guess since they frost a doughnut, everybody's happy now? I don't even know. It like coincidentally turns out to be something that her neighbor was interested in too. But how did the neighbor not know that? She says that her neighbor is like a grandma to her, and took care of her mother when her mother was little, and then took care of her when she was little, and all this girl does is hula hoop. How did her neighbor not know that she hula hoops? And how did her neighbor not tell her that she also hula hooped as a kid? And now I have semantic satiation with the phrase "hula hoop" which is like the goofiest phrase in the world.
I guess the contest is who can keep the hoop up the longest? Did people do this, like in the 50s or something? It doesn't seem like something anybody does nowadays. It's kind of like having a hopscotch fight. It's bizarre. It's not bad. It doesn't really seem great. It's not lighthearted enough to be just a fun book, and it kind of feels like it has a message but I can't work out what it is. I guess the message could be, "own up to your mistakes and everything will turn out okay in a deus ex machina kind of way"? That's as close as I can get.