Okay, so Im coming dangerously close to neglecting the fact I haven't written this post in like 2-3 months, which is funny, because I read the book in less than a week. I knew if I sat down and wrote the review, I'd have so much to say, and I tend to be very wordy in reviews to begin with.
The Boy in The Black Suit follows the exploits of a 17 year old teenage boy who's mother recently lost her battle with cancer(correct me if Im not remembering correctly folks, I read it in January). With time, he ends up taking a job working in a funeral home, hence becoming "The Boy in The Black Suit."
I normally wait until I've actually started describing my pros and cons before I make a declaration this bold, but I think this book will be the best book I've read all year. Diversity in books is interpreted differently by nearly everyone I know, so when it comes to needing diverse books, what fits for one person, might not fit for the next.
When people say we need diverse books, Im almost positive they're talking about a book like this. The Boy in the Black Suit's leading character Matthew Miller(Matt for short) was a character I really rooted for. I hate the word "relatable" because it suggests "relatable" has to be something specific, or a one-size-fits-all answer. But I related to him more than most characters I've read since I dedicated myself to reading diverse titles.
I know the author's been around longer than I've been reading his work, but he reminds me a bit of author Zetta Elliot. I liked his use of language, mainly because the way I speak is very much like Matthew and his best friend. In fact, I'd always laugh to myself when reading, because the way they spoke to one another reminded of my sister and myself, and we're not even from New York.
One of the strongest parts about the book was Matthew himself. He was a male character, who actually seemed like a real person. A lot of depictions of boys and men tend to read as a fantasy to me, which I get. Readers like to have a fantasy of what is a perfect guy to them, but it just seems overdone a lot of the times.
He was written in a way our media would never depict a black boy, full of vulnerability, rejecting gender roles, and someone not afraid to cry. The kid could throw down in the kitchen, a trait he learned from his late mother.
I know in Black/Latino homes of the past, boys and men were forced to be what society saw as being men. But this creates so many future issues for men not allowed to express their vulnerability or enjoy things society hasnt deemed "conventionally " masculine.
Let's not forget to mention he's African-American. I wasn't sure if I'd get a character who just reminded me of a default character who just happened to be Black, or a main character who reads too hard to remind me that he's Black, but I got neither. I got Matt. A character that you'd automatically know is a black teen, but in a positive light, that doesn't shy away from being born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.
I live in an oh-so small state called Connecticut, that happens to border NY, but I went to college in Brooklyn, and Im sure the writer is from NY. I mean, anyone can "do" NY, but not everyone can "do" Brooklyn. Reading this book, I was in Brooklyn, and not only that, I loved all the other settings(all the places that brought familiarity, like the Cluck Bucket, lol).
Matthew wasn't a scatterbrain like a few teenage protagonists I read. He had intelligent thoughts, and a big love for Tupac, so I know I would've been friends with a kid like this growing up. I think the only real complaint I had was with a detail in the past, feeling the need to tie it's loose end in the present. But I looked past it for all the other amazing details it had!
Matthew reminded me a bit of my 21 year old cousin. My cousin is religious, so he loves wearing fancy suits all the time. I loved how Matt wore a suit for his job at first as a requirement, but with time, he couldn't imagine himself without one. Not to say all kids should be wearing suits all of a sudden, but it was just interesting how the title wrung it's way in more ways than one throughout the entire book.
It's hard to comment on editing on traditionally published books, especially one like this, because it seems as though editors put a lot of time into making this effort perfect. It's easier to comment when there are mistakes =)
Diversity-wise, Im assuming nearly every character except one, was Black. Could be American, of Caribbean descent, or even of African, but most of the characters were Black. Only one character wasn't Black, and he was a bodega owner from Pakistan. He was cool, I wish I would've seen more of him, or other cultures, but I liked how it didn't feel the need to insert-white-character-here, just to make it "relatable"(there's that word again).
Matt also had a girl he was feeling named "Lovey." They had awesome chemistry, and it's really nice to read a book that focuses on the strength of Black Love, because as a Black women, and an Afro-Latina, everything tries to steer me away from Black Love. No one really says it, but it's true, and I do tend to read more books depicting interracial relationships than the latter.
Also liked how it incorporated texting, in a texting generation. And the way Lovey and Matt flirted is very reminiscent of how it was in neighborhoods I grew up in. If I could, I'd buy this book for everyone I know, because it's just that amazing.
The cover is intriguing, and the title is very catchy. It makes you wonder who is "The Boy in The Black Suit" and what does that mean to him. Character names? I'll say they're uncommonly common. They suit the characters, even though I meet a lot of people with names like theirs, outside of Lovey of course!
Sometimes I wish I would've gotten a better description of the characters who made the most appearances in the book though. Matt mentioned being the color of dark wood, but not much else. I couldn't tell if he was tall or short, and only the characters who walked on with little or no dialogue, were described in the most detail.
But overall, it was an amazing read. Im really looking forward to reading some of Jason Reynold's other books =)