The Porsche Santiaga Story

Atria/Emily Bestler Books. 432 pp. $26.99

By Sister Souljah

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Reviewed by Karen E. Quinones Miller

It's here!

A Deeper Love Inside: The Porsche Santiaga Story

, the long-awaited sequel to Sister Souljah's 1999 debut novel,

The Coldest Winter Ever

, which sold more than a million copies, is finally here!

And it was released with even more fanfare than the 2008 publication of Midnight: A Gangster Love Story, the prequel to The Coldest Winter Ever that centers on the Sudanese immigrant Midnight, who was introduced in Coldest Winter.

It's little wonder that this sequel, like the prequel, made an early appearance on the New York Times best-sellers list, especially since fans of The Coldest Winter Ever had to wait 14 years to find out the fate of the characters in that book.

Unfortunately, Sister Souljah and her publisher seem to be guilty of committing a classic case of bait and switch.

When The Coldest Winter Ever came out in 1999, it introduced the new genre of street lit - fast-paced novels that detail inner-city life in its grittiest and grimiest form, with drug dealing, murder, and violence playing a major part of the drama that drives the plot.

The protagonist of that book, Winter, was the older daughter of drug lord Ricky Santiaga, who is arrested by the feds, leaving his family in tatters. The book spans about nine years, detailing how Winter survived by lying, whoring, dealing drugs, cheating people, and looking out only for Number One.

Perhaps I'm wrong, but I do think that people would think that the sequel to one of the first and best street lit books ever written would also be street lit. There will be some who like A Deeper Love Inside and there will be some who don't - but I don't think anyone would call it street lit.

A Deeper Love Inside tells the story of Porsche Santiaga, who was only 8 when her family fell apart. Shortly after being placed in foster care, she's sent to a juvenile institution for jabbing a pencil into a foster-care supervisor's neck, paralyzing the woman.

Porsche, unlike her older sister Winter, is fiercely loyal, and the whole time she's incarcerated, her only thought is of reuniting with her family. Two years into her imprisonment, she meets a 14-year-old girl named Riot, and the two of them escape - in an extremely unusual manner - and travel to an Indian reservation. There Porsche learns about the attributes of various herbs, and the importance of a healthy diet. Porsche stays on the reservation for 40 days, then returns to Brooklyn in search of her mother.

Now 11, Porsche finds her once beautiful mother a pitiful crackhead and goes on a mission to save her. At one point, she goes as far as handcuffing her mother to a bed and forcing her to sip soups and teas to clean out her system. She does this while venturing out during the day to do odd jobs around the neighborhood.

Porsche also meets a 12-year-old boy named Elisha, and despite their youth they fall madly in love. You'll have to read the book to find out what happens next.

A Deeper Love Inside is a beautifully written story, though sometimes painstakingly slow. At times, the story was hard to swallow. I know that there are some preteens who can survive on their own on mean streets, but Porsche just seemed way too mature and logical.

But the biggest flaw is the one I mentioned earlier - A Deeper Love Inside just isn't a sequel to The Coldest Winter Ever. Those who buy it thinking they're going to learn what happened to Winter are going to be disappointed.

I would even accept calling it a sequel if it started where Coldest Winter ended, but it doesn't. The books run parallel, with the focus totally on Porsche - who was a very minor character in the original book.

Porsche, contrary to hints dropped in The Coldest Winter Ever, does not live, or desire to live, a lifestyle similar to her older sister's. We do get a short glimpse of Winter, and of Midnight, but not enough to satisfy.