Whiteout

 

Two Black teens are kissing against a backdrop of a city skyline and falling snow; it looks like they're in a snow globe.Scientific Question – Can you outromance the most romance-obsessed girlfriend in the world?

Stephanie “Stevie” Williams has to answer this question – and fast. Her girlfriend Sola planned a special dinner to introduce Stevie to her family. Stevie screws up royally and turns the night into a disaster. Sola is heartbroken and has given Stevie a deadline to make things right. Stevie, a scientific, logic-driven person, calls on her network of friends to help her create a grand gesture to win Sola back. They all want to help but it won’t be easy. Each of them are in the midst of dealing with their own romantic issues. To make things more complicated, all the plans get tossed in the air because a snowstorm has hit their city of Atlanta, making it almost impossible to get anywhere.

As the teens’ stories are explored we get to enjoy favorite romance tropes, from “do I dare admit my feelings?,” to “can we get past this misunderstanding?,” to “is my ex is your ex?” Queer romances are front and center serving up plotlines that will appeal to many teens. All the teens are Black but they come from a variety of backgrounds including Nigerian, Muslim, Afro-Latino, and Jewish. Rather than shallow mentions, their assorted cultures are important to the narrative. Collectively their stories blend vulnerability, bravery and swoony affection in a way that feels honest. The teens are all relatable as young people trying to figure things out. Whiteout is written by the same lineup of award winning young adult authors that brought us Blackout. This time around Nicola Yoon, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, Tiffany D. Jackson and Dhonielle Clayton only give clues to who wrote which storylines. In the end it doesn’t matter. The authors work cohesively to bring Stevie, Sola and their friends together in a warm embrace of romance.

Find Whiteout at your local bookstore.

 

Blackout

BlackoutThis collection of stories celebrating Black romance comes from an all-star squad of young adult authors. Editor Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles), is joined in this delightful anthology by: Tiffany D. Jackson (Allegedly), Nic Stone (Dear Martin), Angie Thomas (The Hate You Give), Ashley Woodfolk (The Beauty That Remains) and Nicola Yoon (The Sun Is Also a Star).

In six stories, we meet thirteen young people in various locations throughout Manhattan. They’re all in the midst of dealing with different romantic quandaries – confessing attraction, revealing secrets, healing from a breakup, or daring to be vulnerable. Then, a blackout hits. This disruption dramatically complicates their various situations. Whether they are stranded on a stalled subway train, struggling with only their cell phone for light, awkwardly connecting with new people, or finding themselves stuck with an old flame, the teens can’t escape their romantic dilemmas.

Each story is unique, but they are all tied together; most of the teens know each other and they’re all trying to get to the same block party in Brooklyn. One of the stories is set in a senior living facility. A brief look at the residents’ various love stories and relationships adds warmth without overshadowing the teens’ experiences. The characters are all honest in voice and action. The inclusive representation across gender and sexuality means many teens will find romantic stories that will resonate with them – or allow  them to dream. The laser focus on the teens’ love lives — with no reference to whatever chaos may be going on around them — makes the blackout feel like a cozy blanket instead of a disaster. These funny, heartwarming, sweet and complex stories focusing on Black love, not trauma, come just when we need them.

I usually wait until a book has been published to review it, but I was so excited about this one I couldn’t hold off. Pre-order Blackout now or find it in June at your local independent bookstore.

Black Enough?

What does that mean? Who gets to decide?

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This collection of stories by some of the best young adult authors writing today examines what it means to be a young black person. Are you still black if you’re a Star Wars nerd? Into tech? A fan of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson? A debate champ who’s also a metalhead? Are open about mental health issues?  Love the outdoors? Wonder if you have to code switch within the black community? These are just a few of the issues teens confront here. As in real life, the young people in these stories are privileged, poor, queer, straight, artistic, insecure, confident, have families that are Afrocentric, and families where blackness is not at the forefront. Black youth coming from all types of backgrounds deal with questions of legitimacy. Although they have different experiences and expectations, they often feel judged against some vague set of standards, making it difficult to feel like they’re “doing it right.”  This raises an important question – is judging a person’s blackness actually buying into stereotypes about ourselves? Regardless, I have no doubt a wide variety of young people will find themselves in these stories. This will also resonate with a lot of adults as one of those “I wish I had this when I was a teen” books.

If you aren’t black, read this book anyway. Anyone from a culture where people feel free to call your authenticity into question will relate to the stories in this collection.

In case you’re still wondering, Ibi Zoboi, editor of this collection, answers the question. She hopes that “…Black Enough will encourage all black teens to be their free, uninhibited selves without the constraints of being black, too black or not black enough.” In other words, the answer is yes, you, in all your nerdy, swaggerific, techy, metal music loving, sneakerheaded, privileged, struggling, code switching self, are black enough.
Click here to buy Black Enough from an independent bookstore!