A marathon masterpiece that shares a holistic portrait of U.S. history that must not be dismissed or forgotten.


An unblinking view into plantation life in the Deep South.

At first glance this epic seems to be focused on the ups and downs of the Guilbert family, slaveholders living in the Louisiana parish of St. James whose legacy is protected by 80-year-old matriarch Madame Sylvie Bernardin de Maret Dacier Guilbert. However, Williams-Garcia doesn’t stop in the salons and sitting rooms; she brings readers into the cabins and cookhouses of enslaved people whose perceived invisibility gives them access to ideas and knowledge that empower them in ways that few fiction writers have examined. Sixteen-year-old Thisbe is the personal servant to Madame Guilbert—treated like a pet and beaten with a hairbrush for the smallest alleged slight. Her narrative to liberation is intricately webbed within the story of the Guilberts. Thisbe’s silence helps her acquire the language to affirm her humanity to those who would deny it. With a cast of characters whose assorted genealogies feel like an ode to the mixing of peoples and cultures in Louisiana, this story broadens and emboldens interrogations of U.S. chattel slavery. Williams-Garcia’s meticulous research processes shout volumes about the importance of taking contemporary inspiration into the archives to unearth sorely needed truths as we continue to navigate questions of equity and justice for the descendants of enslaved people.

A marathon masterpiece that shares a holistic portrait of U.S. history that must not be dismissed or forgotten. (author's note, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-236729-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told.

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The 17-year-old son of a troubled rock star is determined to find his own way in life and love.

On the verge of adulthood, Blade Morrison wants to leave his father’s bad-boy reputation for drug-and-alcohol–induced antics and his sister’s edgy lifestyle behind. The death of his mother 10 years ago left them all without an anchor. Named for the black superhero, Blade shares his family’s connection to music but resents the paparazzi that prevent him from having an open relationship with the girl that he loves. However, there is one secret even Blade is unaware of, and when his sister reveals the truth of his heritage during a bitter fight, Blade is stunned. When he finally gains some measure of equilibrium, he decides to investigate, embarking on a search that will lead him to a small, remote village in Ghana. Along the way, he meets people with a sense of purpose, especially Joy, a young Ghanaian who helps him despite her suspicions of Americans. This rich novel in verse is full of the music that forms its core. In addition to Alexander and co-author Hess’ skilled use of language, references to classic rock songs abound. Secondary characters add texture to the story: does his girlfriend have real feelings for Blade? Is there more to his father than his inability to stay clean and sober? At the center is Blade, fully realized and achingly real in his pain and confusion.

A contemporary hero’s journey, brilliantly told. (Verse fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-310-76183-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Blink

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A messy, imperfect, and necessary portrayal of a drastically underrepresented identity.


A British teen works on accepting her aro-ace identity.

Eighteen-year-old White British Georgia is tired of feeling different. She loves the theoretical idea of romance and isn’t opposed to reading a steamy fanfic now and then, but real-life romantic and sexual experiences make her feel squicky. Heading off to Durham University, she’s determined that if she tries hard enough, she can have these types of attractions despite not understanding how her friends can be “out there just craving genitals and embarrassment.” When she and her two best friends—masc-leaning Colombian British lesbian Pip and White cishet Jason—join her new roommate Rooney’s attempt to revive their uni’s Shakespeare Society, drama abounds. Rooney and Pip feud and flirt, Georgia and Jason attempt to date despite Jason’s clear interest and Georgia’s clear apathy, friendships are ruined, friendships are repaired. Outgoing pansexual Rooney’s supposedly sex-positive attitude is undermined by her use of hookups as a method of self-harm. Georgia’s third-year mentor, nonbinary Indian Sunil, is a homoromantic asexual, and her older cousin Ellis is aro-ace, but their main functions are to facilitate infodumping centered on Georgia’s experiences rather than to provide rich explorations of the impact of intersectional identities. Readers should be prepared for many pages of Georgia’s vivid, unrelenting internalized aro- and ace-phobia, making this an incredibly validating mirror, an eye-opening window, or, for some, a read where the pain may outweigh the gain.

A messy, imperfect, and necessary portrayal of a drastically underrepresented identity. (resources) (Fiction. 15-adult)

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-338-75193-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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