We read this for book club back in March and the author came to our book discussion. About half the attendees were white. Lincoln Jones' race came up and Van Draanen said she purposely kept everything (location, everyone's race, etc) vague so the book could be read as people want. It's like she wanted brownie points for writing a black kid without the potential of backlash for doing it poorly.
Of course, all the white people went on and on about how great that was and how they KNEW Lincoln was black (I didn't know until an old white character mistakes him for boys she met while a missionary in Africa... I can't remember if a specific country was named) and they also knew the character who work with Lincoln's mom (retirement home/care facility) were also not white because of course people who would have these jobs aren't white, but everyone who lives in the facility is white (basically it was a lot of racist nonsense about how non-white people should be servants to white people OBVIOUSLY).
And then Van Draanen also talked about how she uses sensitivity readers and she works so hard to be authentic (also BS). She wrote a book with Native American characters (Paiute) with storytelling as a major element. A sensitivity reader told her Paiute don't tell stories at the time of year the book is set in. Instead of rewriting/reworking the story, Van Draanen ignored the sensitivity reader and published the book anyway.
The entire discussion left a really sour taste in my mouth. So many super ignorant and racist remarks from these annoying white people (Oh, we don't see color, but we also know that every poor character in this book isn't white because authenticity, we're so progressive!!!).
I enjoy Van Draanen's Sammy Keyes series, but have been very cautious with my reading and recommending of her books since March.