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 =)
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review, but like a bunch of books, if I like what I saw by page 50, I'll buy it.
There were some things I both liked and disliked about the book, but I did overall enjoy the read.
Sins of The Father, followed the exploits of three siblings ages 12-14, and what life is like for them when they realize they've received super human abilities.
There was Eve, the eldest, who had super speed. Gwen, who was the middle child and gained super strength, and Anastasia, aka Ana, who developed super intelligence.
Even though the oldest main character Eve is 14, I do feel as though the book is more middle grade. Middle grade tends to have different dialogue/narrative for the way the characters speak, so even though it could be borderline YA, I feel it's more appropriately Middle Grade.
As far as pacing goes, I'd say it worked. I think the only really issue I had with the plot, was that for me, it seemed to have a strong beginning and ending, but it's second act wasn't as strong as it's Act I and III.
It introduced well and ended sweet, but I struggled more with the Act II. Sometimes I wasn't sure what was going on. Because of this, I paid more attention to the way the characters responded to what they were doing, more than what they were doing.
As far as world-building, I feel like everything has a picture that can be painted. Whether that's a kid from NYC, or a fairy from *I don't know where the hell fairies live* all stories have a picture to paint, that the reader might not know or have experience with.
The book paints a picture of three affluent black girls nicely. I honestly don't know what it's like to be a person of color and affluent(maybe check me when Im 50 ;p)but with their affluence came privilege.
It's important to highlight that for me, because not everyone is aware of the financial struggles of the 99%, when they're the 1%. Eve, Gwen and Ana are definitely the 1%, and it was specifically highlighted with Eve's crush, considering he was a scholarship student.
When discussing the girls, you should know a little more about them. Eve is the eldest, but going through the most in terms of self acceptance. She's shaped differently, and significantly darker than her siblings and mother, and naturally competitive.
Gwen is the middle child, which in some ways would explain her prankster nature(possibly looking for attention as a middle child?) whilst Ana is the youngest, perhaps the least motivated in school, despite her intelligence.
But they're pretty close, which is cool. I liked that they got along but still remind me of real siblings.
For the most part, I believe they all have natural hair. I found it refreshing to see characters who didn't have to resemble the default standard of beauty for a black girl, to be considered attractive.
Im probably going to sound biased, but Gwen was my favorite. There was a situation in the lunchroom, where many of her friends talked a certain way, based on her name being Gwen. I laughed out loud literally, because people totally do that with me, since I was a kid, until this day.
But they're all cute. I think Eve is a little standoffish, but teenagers usually are. Ana kind of reminded me of Temperance Brennan, which is a total compliment, because I friggin love Bones(especially Temperance). Ana spoke very collected, emotion-less and drab, which was weird for a 12 year old, but it worked for her character.
The only thing I didn't connect with amongst them was their height. All of them are under 15 years old, but the shortest is 5'7" and the tallest is 5'11".
To be that young, they looked like women in my heads. Im just afraid someone might over-sexualize them, because amongst women of color, that's really common, and because they're enormous in terms of their height, sometimes I didn't picture them young.
A study showed children of color tend to get viewed as older(link here)and that tends to justify the crimes against them. Women and girls experience this differently, and not in a good way.
I think if they'd been a year or two older, I would've totally bought it.
But every other character is also tall. All their friends, the adults in their lives, everyone. Im between 5'2" and 5'3". Its been a long time since I was a kid XD But being very tall was usually and exception, not a rule. Everyone seemed like college students. Not a deal breaker, just something that jumped at me.
I thought that the back story on how they received their abilities could've been fleshed out more, but maybe it'll be explained better in future books?
There was a bunch of conflict, but the most life threatening was their "loss." I don't mean someone died. I mean their False Victory. Every book should have something that makes the character/s feel as though nothing will change, only to have everything change.
They lost things really important to them, and sometimes, that loss is a part of the journey of being different.
The writing style isn't a weak point, but sometimes the dialogue seemed a little appropriating. People of color have the ability to appropriate too, so sometimes, I sometimes I felt the story tried too hard to make the characters sound 12-14 years old. Granted, I don't have kids, and haven't been 14 for 10(add 5) years, so I don't know how preteens talk outside of family members. But sometimes their white friends talked like them as well, and I wasn't always comfortable with that. Mainly because I wasn't sure if they were making fun of people who weren't like them(rich).
There was also a lot of dialogue. Since the POV is 3rd person, I would've liked more internal thought. 3rd person works best for multiple protagonists, so I can't complain, but there are times where there's a lot of talking with no distinction.
When Im looking at a full page of dialogue with no beats and breaks, I assume the characters are arguing, even when they're not, or it's hard to tell which voice is speaking when they have similar voices.
Again, not a deal breaker, but noticeable.
The editing and formatting work. Just some conversations are very word-y.
I do think racially, there is a ton of diversity, even if they're not main characters. If you count the Parker Sisters' family, there are a lot of African American characters. The sisters have a friend named Kang, who's American of Korean descent, and I liked that he was one of the cool kids and an athlete.
Most of their friends are white, but perhaps that's intentional because of the fact they're all wealthy?
I wanted to talk about socioeconomic diversity, because Im rarely able to. Not every book addresses it, and unless your eyes are open, you might not even notice.
Due to the Parker Sisters' elite background, they didn't quite understand their privilege. Their grandmother's wealth granted them a ton of privileges, black children normally don't have.
Eve displayed her privilege first hand, with her love interest. He wasn't from the same socioeconomic background as her, and while I was uncomfortable, Im glad that it did address it. She reminded me a bit of the character Sephy in Malorie Blackman's "Noughts and Crosses"(Which is a brilliant read. I highly recommend).
Privilege comes in many different forms, be it gender, sexual orientation, race, class, size. Being of the same race doesn't mean you automatically experience the same things.
Racial and Socioeconomic diversity were the only things I noticed about the book though, in terms of diversity.
I think the cover is cute. I wonder how it would've looked if I got to see the girls in the flesh, versus their silhouettes, but it does capture what each sister is good at. The title is ok. It does describe the plot, and how they got their abilities, so I wouldn't take off for that. It's just ok.
I think Im totally biased when it comes to the character names section. Even though Im a Guin with a different spelling, it is pronounced the same as Gwen. Another black Guin. The world aint ready.
Anastasia is a really pretty name. They referred to her as Ana, but I love her full name. Eve is cute. Not as pretty as the other two, but it is cute. There were a bunch of names I saw that were pretty or eye catching, but you know how I get with names. The more unique the better.
They're the main character though. So I think it was a win.
The book described the characters enough for me. I think I got a clear enough picture of them in my head.