‘I’m Not Dying With You Tonight’ is a powerful, quick read destined for lots of conversation and many classrooms and library bookshelves.
Following two young girls, thrown together by a high school football game that deteriorates into chaos and a night of city rioting, this YA novel addresses issues of race and class and reflects the fragile state of the domestic climate right now.
Lena, a popular black student, and Campbell, a white teen new to town, who knows no one and is unsure of herself, live in the same world, but seemingly come from different worlds. The book is set over one single night, really over several hours, and that’s what it took me to read this captivating book.
Over those few hours, they rely on each other to survive unimaginable circumstances, facing down riot police, looters, vagrants, and gunfire. The perspective shifts back and forth between the two characters throughout and the chapters are short, keeping the action moving quickly and the pace fast.
While it may seem as though there's no time to dig deeper into the enormous issues that come up in this book, all revolving around the race relations canon, debut authors Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal have written a relatable novel that can serve as a great jumping-off point for conversation.
When Lena and Campbell have awkward moments that remind them of their (often ill-conceived) preconceptions and assumptions of each other, the subtext taps into the dialogue we are having as a country and also serves to point out how easy and necessary it is for all the walls to come down. The two girls end up being emblematic of how we work through things better when we work together.
I expect that others reading this will recognize how it reflects the racial divide in this country (and some shocking recent current events), yet feel the hope that I felt when I read it. I honestly raced through this, it placed me right in the action myself; it's a poignant read for teens or anyone who needs to have a quick reexamination of their thinking about how we are all judging each other.