Book Review: My Name Is Margaret Moore by Hannah Capin

“I am a girl. I am a monster, too.”

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Release Date: October 12, 2021

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Each summer the girls of Deck Five come back to Marshall Naval School. They sail on jewel-blue waters; they march on green drill-fields; they earn sunburns and honors. They push until they break apart and heal again, stronger.

Each summer Margaret and Rose and Flor and Nisreen come back to the place where they are girls, safe away from the world: sisters bound by something more than blood.

But this summer everything has changed. Girls are missing and a boy is dead. It’s because of Margaret Moore, the boys say. It’s because of what happened that night in the storm.

Margaret’s friends vanish one by one, swallowed up into the lies she has told about what happened between her and a boy with the world at his feet. Can she unravel the secrets of this summer and last, or will she be pulled under by the place she once called home?

Grade: B-


Margaret Moore loves her Deck Five girls – every summer she goes to Marshall Naval School and the summer is the only time she feels alive. But something happened the year before with a boy and that has changed the dynamics of the new year. The writing is a lyrical punch in the gut – and ever since I read Foul Is Fair last year I fell instantly in love with Capin’s writing style. However, this novel didn’t keep me as engaged as her previous one. Not because I didn’t enjoy the story or the protagonist, because I did. And there’s a huge twist towards the middle of the novel, and maybe it’s because I anticipated the twist or maybe because the ending happened way too long after the twist that the novel began to feel a tad repetitive.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, because once you know the twist, you’ll understand why there’s the repetitiveness to it. And yes, this novel too is filled with ferocious friendships and violent revenge, but I suppose since reading her previous novel that was far bloodier, I was expecting a bit more?

If this is your first time reading Capin, you may love this book more because it’s got a group of friends you will root for, a protagonist that is both relateable and someone you can feel empathy for, and again, the writing is both razor sharp and poetically beautiful. So there is much to love in this novel if you’re a new reader.

I recommend this book if you love feminist revenge stories with strong female friendships.


Book Review: Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia



“We are our hunger.”

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Release Date: September 7, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $17.99 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?

Grade: A


I understand there was vampire fatigue when this novel was initially published and that’s a shame because Certain Dark Things resuscitates a very dead genre into something exciting and innovative. I love vampires, but I am highly selective when it comes to watching or reading about them.

First of all, I simply loved the fact that there were subspecies of vampires stemming from various cultures and mythologies in this novel.

The protagonist Atl is a vampire that’s descendent of the Aztec goddesses, meaning she’s a vampire that laso has bird-like wings and feeds with a stinger rather than fangs. What I loved about the novel is that although the vampire and human friend, Domingo have feelings for one another, the author never forgets what would truly happen between a vampire and human.

My fave character was a revenant called Bernardino that gives Domingo the best advice ever when it comes to dealing with vampires, “We are our hunger.” Meaning that vampires will kill you even if they love you because their hunger is stronger than their love.

This isn’t your typical vampire story, this book is packed with violence, loyalty, and what it means to truly love someone.

I highly recommend this to anyone who loves the undead and who wants a vampire story that isn’t the same old rehashed a thousand times.

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Book Review: Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Some ghosts simply cannot rest….

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Release Date: October 9, 2021

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $19.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.

It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.

A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.

But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.

And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.

Effortlessly taking the classic haunted house story and turning it on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.

Grade: C-


I was truly anticipating this novella sine it has everything that I simply adore in horror, creepy vengeful ghosts, characters that love the macabre, and it was set in Japan, one of my fave countries. The premise of the novella was also intriguing, a girl Cat, reunites with her friends for a wedding that will take place in a haunted Heian-era mansion. And let’s not forget that with such an incredibly frightening book cover, who wouldn’t be expecting to be scared shitless, right?

Now, my issue with the novella is the excessive purple prose that was interjected throughout the whole novella. Some of the writing was beautiful, but some of it was simply too over the top that a lot of times I had to reread to know exactly what was going on, and therein lies the issue, in a horror novella you want the action to be evident, not up to interpretation!

My second issue with the novella was that all of the characters seemed to have had some past romantic connections to one another, and while that isn’t unusual is a group of young friends, it seemed really odd that every single dude had slept with one girl and so everyone had underlying resentment towards one another.

The ending was very B-rated horror movie and maybe I’d enjoy this novella more if it had been a B-rated horror movie (because I enjoy those as mindless entertainment) but what works as a bad horror movie usually doesn’t work for a book and that’s why I couldn’t enjoy it.

I know many reviewers DID enjoy this book and I’m not discouraging others from checking it out, but I must be honest about how I felt about it and for me it’s a pass.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


Excerpt: “Of Guys And Dolls” by Stella B. James From Tainted Love: Women in Horror Anthology

True to my word, I leave the closet alone. Despite the various hats that fall on me when I move a hanger, or a random photo box that spills out at my feet, I don’t rearrange anything. I tackle under the bed instead.

With my long hair braided to the side to keep it out of the way, I lay flat on my belly to army crawl half way under and pull everything out. Balled up dresses, scraps of torn paper, an old pair of sneakers, and about five shoe boxes full of cards and letters find their way to freedom.

I leave those alone, wondering why she would stash them instead of throwing them away. I find a bigger box last, one meant for boots maybe, and back away to pull it out.

Opening the top reveals a bunch of weird looking homemade dolls. Thirteen of them total. Each of them looks different, but familiar all the same. I run my fingers over their stiff hair and rough bodies, trying to place the name for these things. Turning them over, I notice they have names stitched to them. The red haired one I’m holding is named Carla.

Carla. Carla. Oh, her friend. I find the scrapbook and match each obituary to a doll. Maybe she made these of them? It’s kind of sweet to preserve their memory in this way. Strange, and sad, but sweet. Only one of them doesn’t have a name yet and it also lacks any personal touches.

“I see you found my dolls.” Katy doesn’t look mad, but not too pleased either.

“They match your friends. Did you make them?”

She shrugs, handing me a coffee. “Kind of. I buy them in the French Quarter and finish them up the way I like.”

“Who is this?” I ask, holding up the plain one.

“Not sure yet. Guess it will have to be a surprise.” She sits down beside me, picking up a random doll.

I try to listen to how she fixes up each one, but I can’t stop the cold chill setting in my bones at her last remark.

It’s the last week of July that Katy finds me at the kitchen table doing a crossword puzzle. Something plops on the paper before me, and I recognize it as one of her dolls. It’s wearing a red dress and has long blonde hair, braided to the side. I finger my own braid as I look down at it.

“Is that me?”

“Sure is. I worked on her all week. Figured it would be a nice surprise since you’re heading back to Baton Rouge next week.”

Her sad tone catches me off guard, and I hold the doll to my chest. “You know I have to go back. I have to get my classroom ready and my apartment’s renovations were finished days ago.”

“I know.” She huffs out in frustration and takes the doll back, smoothing out its silky dress. “I’ll just miss you is all. I’ll keep her safe until you leave.”

Ted slams the door upon arriving home, barking out Katy’s name, and I excuse myself for a walk. I’m not in the mood to hear them fight. I don’t think I can stomach the guilt I’ll feel. I wish Katy would just pack up and leave with me.

I like Ted. He’s a good man.

Just not for her.




Book Review: Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller

People say the house is cursed.
It preys on the weakest, and young women are its favorite victims.
In Louth, they’re called the Dead Girls.

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Release Date: January 26, 2021

Publisher: Delacorte Press

Price: $17.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

All Bram wanted was to disappear–from her old life, her family’s past, and from the scandal that continues to haunt her. The only place left to go is Louth, the tiny town on the Hudson River where her uncle, James, has been renovating an old mansion.

But James is haunted by his own ghosts. Months earlier, his beloved wife died in a fire that people say was set by her daughter. The tragedy left James a shell of the man Bram knew–and destroyed half the house he’d so lovingly restored.

The manor is creepy, and so are the locals. The people of Louth don’t want outsiders like Bram in their town, and with each passing day she’s discovering that the rumors they spread are just as disturbing as the secrets they hide. Most frightening of all are the legends they tell about the Dead Girls. Girls whose lives were cut short in the very house Bram now calls home.

The terrifying reality is that the Dead Girls may have never left the manor. And if Bram looks too hard into the town’s haunted past, she might not either.

Grade: A-


I’ll be honest, I was tempted to DNF this book because it was sort of slow moving and it wasn’t really compelling until 40% in the book and then BAM did the novel really shift its gears and started to become unputdownable! I love the book Rebecca and this book was advertised as a retelling of sorts loaded with snowy creepiness and mystery. I must say that I started to like the protagonist Bram way better once we got a chance to really know her better. I really couldn’t tell where the story was going and that’s good! I like the element of surprise and figuring things out alongside the protagonist.

I love that we as readers, just like the protagonist, are wary of all the characters we encounter, because it gives you this feeling that nothing is sacred and you can’t trust anyone. I must say that I really enjoyed this book a lot and am glad that I went against my initial feelings to put it down, and decided to give it a chance.

This book is ideal for readers who love twisty thriller/mysteries or Gothic influenced thrillers with unrealible side characters.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


Book Review: Tender is the Flesh by Augustina Bazterrica

Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Scribner

Price: $14.40 (paperback)

Plot Summary:

His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.

Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.

Grade: A-


This book had Under the Skin vibes, and that was exactly why I chose to read it. If you can’t handle brutal acts of violence, then this book won’t be for you. But if you love dystopian societies then you may want to check this one out. We’re introduced to Marcos, who’s in the business of slaughtering humans ever since a virus has contaminated all the animals and can no longer provide humans the protein they once did. In fact, in this new world, all animals have been destroyed, and the world is silent. Marcos is still reeling from his son’s death, and only continues to work at the slaughterhouse because it’s what he’s best at, and needs the money to keep his dad who’s afflicted with dementia in a retirement home. But, he’s never consumed the new “special meat” himself. In fact, when he’s gifted a female head (as humans that are raised to be livestock are called), he begins to see her humanity.

This book can be triggering for some people (especially if you hate violence directed towards animals and can’t stomach descriptions of people eating humans). I enjoyed the book (although enjoyed probably isn’t the right term cause that’s going to make me sound like a sociopath), but I did like that the author pushed boundaries and made you question what exactly makes us decide that certain animals are deemed worthy of consuming and which ones are considered worth saving.

This is a brutal book, read it if you can deal with violence and triggering events, or you enjoyed Under the Skin.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Scribner for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


Book Review: The Project by Courtney Summers

Welcome to The Unity Project.

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Release Date: February 2, 2021

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

“The Unity Project saved my life.”

Lo Denham is used to being on her own. After her parents died, Lo’s sister, Bea, joined The Unity Project, leaving Lo in the care of their great aunt. Thanks to its extensive charitable work and community outreach, The Unity Project has won the hearts and minds of most in the Upstate New York region, but Lo knows there’s more to the group than meets the eye. She’s spent the last six years of her life trying—and failing—to prove it.

“The Unity Project murdered my son.”

When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her—to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.

Grade: A


The new publishing trend for 2021 must be cults, as a lot of novels with this theme are going to be released next year. But no one will deliver you a more chilling experience than Courtney Summers. This author is notorious for never having a happy ending and pulling all the punches. When you read a Courtney Summers novel you know you’re going into it with the notion that you will be emotionally wrecked once you get to the end. The Unity Project is much on par on delivering exactly that.

Lo has lost her sister, Bea, to the cult of The Unity Project headed by a very charismatic Lev Warren. Lo lost her parents due to a car accident, in which she was also a passenger in. Bea is convinced that Lev brought Lo back to life, and this begins her fascination and loyalty to the man and his visions. Lo, blames Lev for taking her sister away from her when she needed her most, and is hellbent on exposing The Unity Project for what they really are. But what if Lo is wrong?

This novel will have you question whether Lev is really the evil mastermind that Lo is convinced he is, mostly because from the moment we meet him, he’s described with very Jesus-like qualities of acceptance and compassion. But this being a Courtney Summers novel, we know that the horror will come, and when it will, it’ll be brutal. Without being spoiler-y, this novel is an emotional rollercoaster where you begin to question who to trust. If you’re going to read one book about cults, make it this one, as it had everything I’ve wanted and expected from a book about cults, a charismatic leader and some very disturbing scenes, but also perfectly depicting how anyone, even intelligent people can get sucked into cults.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Wednesday Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


Book Review: Those Who Prey by Jennifer Moffett

Be careful of who you befriend….

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Release Date: November 10, 2020

Publisher: Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Price: $16.39 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

College life isn’t what Emily expected. She expected to spend freshman year strolling through the ivy-covered campus with new friends, finally feeling like she belonged. Instead, she walks the campus alone, still not having found her place or her people so far away from home. But then the Kingdom finds her.

The Kingdom, an exclusive on-campus group, offers everything Emily expected out of college and more: acceptance, friends, a potential boyfriend, and a chance to spend the summer on a mission trip to Italy. But the trip is not what she thought it would be. Emily and the others are stripped of their passports and money. They’re cut off from their families back home. The Kingdom’s practices become increasingly manipulative and dangerous…

And someone ends up dead.

Grade: B-


The first half of the novel had me really captivated and interested in wanting to know exactly how someone gets sucked into a cult without knowing it until it’s too late. Emily is lonely, and it isn’t until she meets members of the Kingdom, does she finally feels like she belongs. I know a lot of people mention the fact that the other half of the book takes place in Italy as being interesting, but honestly, the characters barely come into contact with any Italians and stay cooped up in an old villa the whole time, that they might as well have been anywhere in the world, the location didn’t really matter.

Now, for the cult leader, we only got to meet him once and we don’t know much about him at all. In fact, we don’t even know if he’s the one spinning the lies or if it’s his followers as we never see him again. Secondly, two people end up dead in this novel and we don’t ever get full closure about them as their deaths are classified as accidental (yet the circumstances are so fishy that the reader knows it was murder but we can only suspect who it is but never get a definite answer).

The last portion of the book was the least interesting to me. Without the cult and the cult members with her, Emily was a dull character.

I do appreciate the book for being a cautionary message to teenagers facing living alone for the very first time and trying to fit in and thus should be wary of the people they befriend. I remember seeing a lot of Christian based groups in college trying to recruit more members (and maybe some of these groups are cults) but I never got involved as I try to steer clear of people who seem unhinged when it comes to religion.

I do recommend the book and maybe you may enjoy it more than I did, but I was left with a bitter taste since none of my questions never got answered and I don’t know if that was due to the author trying to keep it a mystery or if was due to lazy writing. Either way, it didn’t bond well with me.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Atheneum Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


Book Review: The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

“Let me tell you something….there’s nothing nice about Southern ladies.”

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Release Date: April 7, 2020

Publisher: Quirk Books

Price: $15.29 (hardcover)

Plot Summary:

Patricia Campbell’s life has never felt smaller. Her husband is a workaholic, her teenage kids have their own lives, her senile mother-in-law needs constant care, and she’s always a step behind on her endless to-do list. The only thing keeping her sane is her book club, a close-knit group of Charleston women united by their love of true crime. At these meetings they’re as likely to talk about the Manson family as they are about their own families.

One evening after book club, Patricia is viciously attacked by an elderly neighbor, bringing the neighbor’s handsome nephew, James Harris, into her life. James is well traveled and well read, and he makes Patricia feel things she hasn’t felt in years. But when children on the other side of town go missing, their deaths written off by local police, Patricia has reason to believe James Harris is more of a Bundy than a Brad Pitt. The real problem? James is a monster of a different kind—and Patricia has already invited him in. 
Little by little, James will insinuate himself into Patricia’s life and try to take everything she took for granted—including the book club—but she won’t surrender without a fight in this blood-soaked tale of neighborly kindness gone wrong.

Grade: B+


Vampires are hands down, my favourite undead creature there are. But because they’re my favourite, I also tend to be very picky when it comes to books or films that feature them. If I hadn’t previously read Grady Hendrix before and thoroughly enjoyed his books, I probably wouldn’t have given this one a chance, simply because I am that picky with the vampire genre. However, I am glad that I dove into this vampire novel, as I loved the crazy journey. The horror doesn’t immediately begin, and James Harris is a very enigmatic but handsome vampire. Perhaps it’s because the novel begins in the 80’s but I got a very Fright Night vibe from it. I do like the protagonist Patricia, a housewife and voracious reader of true crime novels. I know a lot of people have complained about the women in the novel being housewives and that Hendrix shouldn’t have written them as though it were the 1950’s. But…having grown up in the 80’s, I can only think of one mother I knew of what worked, all of my other friends’ mothers were housewives as well as my own mother. So for me, that part didn’t seem that far-fetched from reality.

If you’re read other Hendrix novels, then you’ll know he’s got a morbid fetish with rats causing havoc and blood. The book spans many years (it ends in the late 90’s). My only issue with it, is that the vampire per se, isn’t very visible. Sure, the protagonist obsesses about him (she’s convinced he’s a vampire but knows how absurd that notion is to share with her family and friends), but after the initial introduction, we rarely have moments with James Harris, and that’s a shame, because in the very beginning he was charming and interesting and I would’ve liked to have known more about him.

The only downfall the novel had was when the women banded together to take down the vampire. In some regards, the vampire appeared almost a weakling that the reader can’t help but think, if it was THAT easy to take him down, why didn’t they do it before?

Apart from that, the novel provided an interesting take of the genre, but I can’t say it’s my favourite vampire novel.


Book Review & Author Interview: The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed

“First a memory: the hillside set ablaze….”

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Release Date: August 4, 2020

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Price: $15.05 (hardback)

Plot Summary:

Los Angeles, 1992

Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.

Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.

As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.

With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?

Grade: A-


The Black Kids is a timely read that spares no emotional punches. Ashley is a sassy, funny, rich girl who has always attended private school with her rich white friends. She doesn’t know exactly what reality less fortunate black people actually live through day in and day out. Sure, she sometimes has dealt with racism, if even subtle by her own friends, but she’s never had to live in dire circumstances like her own cousins. But when the Rodney King riots set the city of Los Angeles ablaze, Ashley can no longer ignore the flames of injustice. For the first time in her life, she has to confront her past, what it means to be a black girl, and figure out who her true friends are. I enjoyed this book because Ashley’s POV was no only blunt but hella funny. I like that Ashley’s character isn’t free of faults, she does some pretty questionable things within the course of the novel but ultimately she tries to make amends where she can and where it counts.

I don’t know if the author has intentions of writing a sequel, but I wouldn’t be against one. Especially if we were to get a book written in LaShawn’s POV (he’s a secondary character in the novel, a black kid who attends the rich kids’ private school because of his sports scholarship). Out of all the characters in the book, he was ultimately the star (much to Ashley’s dismay, since in the beginning of the novel she kinda resents the fact that he’s both smart and charismatic and is going to her dream college).

Pick up this book for timely issues and 90’s nostalgia, you won’t be disappointed.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

Photo by: Elizabeth T. Nguyen

Short Q&A With Author:

I read that you started writing the novel The Black Kids five years ago. How does it feel that the subject matter of the book is now more timely than ever?

So it’s funny, I actually originally started thinking of the idea for The Black Kids as a thesis film when I was in grad school back in 2010, and ultimately decided against it. When I took a break from screenwriting in 2016, I decided to return to my first love of writing fiction and the short story version of The Black Kids just poured out of me. It felt more imperative than ever given the rise of Black Lives Matter and the fact that smartphones had made it such that we were seeing the effects of unequal policing first hand, literally in our hands and on our televisions. I had no idea that it would feel as timely as it does 2020, which is frustrating, but I also take comfort in the fact that now more than before, non-Black people seem to be trying to seek out and understand Black voices, and to actually be not just passive allies, but advocates for change in meaningful ways.

Female friendships are sometimes difficult. Ashley and Kimberly were childhood friends, but many times we outgrow out childhood friends. Do you think women are more likely to feel an obligated sense of loyalty towards a childhood friend despite not having anything in common with them anyone as they grow older?

I do think women are more likely to push to maintain friendships because women are more likely to have actively nurtured those friendships for years and years. Plus female friendships are so powerful when you’re younger, there’s an almost romantic fervor to them that’s only intensified by the fact that you’re experiencing all these major life changes together in such a relatively short time. When you write “best friends forever” in gel pens in a yearbook, or across each other’s arms in marker, you mean it, and many of us actively work to maintain that promise even when those friendships are toxic, or no longer serve us.

Music played a major role in the novel (or at least Ashley was always listening to songs in many scenes). Were you listening to any artist in particular when working on The Black Kids?

Almost all of the songs that made it into the book were songs that I was listening to as I was writing to transport myself back to the era. Also, randomly, I was listening to a lot of Frank Ocean, especially the songs “Super Rich Kids” and “Sweet Life” which I think are really evocative of the first few chapters before the riots begin. I was also listening to a lot of SZA and Lorde to get myself in the headspace of what it feels like to be a teenager/young woman. A lot of Hole and N.W.A. to capture Jo’s defiance in my head. Also, randomly a lot of Bowie, and Seu Jorge’s Bowie covers. In my head, they actually speak to Ashley’s feelings of not quite fitting in or feeling unmoored in some ways throughout the book. Each character definitely has their own soundscape.

Your novel sheds a light on racism, what lesson do you hope your young readers will take away from reading this novel?

I really view this novel first and foremost as a coming-of age-novel. It’s about Ashley making huge mistakes and learning from them how to be a good daughter, friend, sister, and person. I purposefully wrote her to be super flawed because I think that’s important for young readers and adults alike, especially, when it comes to issues around race. It’s ok if we don’t have all the answers immediately, if we do or say the wrong things, so long as we learn and grow from those mistakes and resolve to move through the world being better, more thoughtful, and more empathetic.

What books do you recommend to your readers if they’re wanting to support Black authors?

First and foremost, I would say that Black authors are authors, period. There are Black authors doing great work across genres, some of which engage with questions of race, some of which don’t. So to those of my readers who are non-Black, diversifying your reading really means just stepping outside your comfort zone within your particular genres of interest to make space for other voices. Don’t dismiss something as written by an author of color as something you won’t relate to. Most of us aren’t women in 19th century Britain in love with a brute with his mad wife in the attic. And yet, people don’t use that to dismiss Jane Eyre. Also, to paraphrase what my friend Nic said in an article – don’t only read books about Black people being oppressed, but also read about our joy.

All that said, Queenie by Candice Carty Williams is really great if you’re looking for something literary, but really funny. It also packs an unexpected emotional punch and delves into mental health issues. Luster has gotten a lot of deserved attention for putting a fresh spin on the struggling millennial in New York story. I really love Zone One by Colson Whitehead, and The Devil in Silver by Victor LaValle. Zone One is a literary zombie apocalypse book and The Devil in Silver is slow burn literary horror that takes place in an insane asylum. Both are nerve-wracking. Lot by Bryan Washington is a beautiful collection of short stories by a queer young Black man from Texas. We Love You Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenridge, is a not easily characterized, but it’s a coming of age story involving a family and a chimp in an institution in Massachusetts, and explores scientific experimenting in the recent past as it relates to historical scientific experimenting on Black bodies. The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson is an amazing non-fiction work about the Great Migration. The middle grade book The Only Black Girls in Town, I think actually shares a lot in common with my novel. And YA right now is an absolute treasure trove of Black voices across sexual orientation, religious and gender identities.