Young Love glows in the dark in new collection of stories


During the 2020 pandemic, six best-selling African American young adult novelists put their time to good use by combining their enormous talents for this collection of stories about young black teens in love. Set in one of the most romantic cities in America (IMHO) – New York City – these black love stories celebrate family as much as they show the many ways teenage love can claim a heart. .

Stories in Blackout – by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk and Nicola Yoon – take place during a power outage in New York City. That means no electricity, no working subway, trains of any kind, traffic lights, elevators, air conditioning – you name him, if he needs electric juice, forget it.

And since the protagonists of each of these stories make it (or maybe not straight) to Twig’s block party in Brooklyn, they’re all on the move with the looming darkness looming.

This darkness is what connects and uplifts these stories. Under the cover of night, these loving teenagers have a chance to face their true desires, fears, and loved ones with honesty – easier to talk in the dim light than in bright sunshine. The blackout also evokes expectations of isolation, hiding in small, dark spaces – characters who can’t see, can’t do, can’t move. But in Blackout, it’s summer in New York, so when the power goes out there are still a few hours of daylight left. Just enough time for these kids to fix what’s wrong with their lives before darkness falls.

You see, young love can’t stand still when the lights threaten to go out – both metaphorically and literally – but luckily these teens have the advantage of young legs as well.

In “The long march” by Tiffany D. Jackson (the story with the longest central arc), Tammi and Kareem are exes who meet during a job interview. When the electricity goes off, they begin the journey from Manhattan to Brooklyn and, for the first time since their split, have the chance to speak up and find out the real reason their romance went wrong.

“Mask without mask” by Nic Stone concerns a basketball superstar with more in mind than playing college ball. A young man close to her heart is a passenger in the same subway car, stuck in the dark between stops – and “peeling off” is what Jacorey “JJ” Harding, Jr. is looking for. In Ashley Woodfolk’s “Made to Fit”, Nella regularly visits Althea House, where her grandfather resides. While searching for a missing photo, Nella, with the help of a new acquaintance, a girl named Joss (and her dog Ziggy), learns more than she expected about self-confidence. .

The idea of ​​being stuck – like JJ in the subway, unable to recognize his real self – appears throughout the book. In “All the great love stories … and the dust”, by Dhonielle Clayton, Lana and Tristán are stuck in the New York Public Library, which puts the brakes on her plans, but somehow Lana will find the courage to say what she owes Tristán , no matter how difficult it is. Meanwhile, a group of college students from Jackson, Mississippi, board a double-decker bus for a class trip in “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” by Angie Thomas, and among them is Kayla, who must choose between two loves – or is it three?

Finally all BlackoutThe characters from Pull the Blinders off, and from JJ to Tammi, Nella, Lana and more, these thoughtful, respectful, kind and endearing black teens are also daringly courageous.

“Seymour and Grace,” by Nicola Yoon, provides an uplifting tale of judging a book by its cover – or a rideshare driver by her favorite podcast, as Grace does when she pokes fun at Seymour’s job and her choice of entertainment for listen. They both arrive safe and sound at Twix’s block party – but at this point, going their separate ways turns out to be more complicated than expected.

These stories are not just uplifting young black love stories; they also celebrate the family and the city. Grandparents and parents are as much a part of this collection as the protagonists of each story and their goals. Multigenerational inclusion makes a strong and positive statement about black families, while also creating mirrored narratives dating back to past blackouts of 2003 and 1977 – for example, Tammi and Kareem’s long walk mirrors the walk of another couple of the decades earlier, during that 1977 blackout; it marks one of the many heartfelt moments in the collection where the stories intersect on one or more levels.

The end of this collection came quickly, and frankly, I could have used a few more scenes at the block party, if only to relax and spend more time with these characters, and their big hearts, their decisions. wise men and their joy. I wanted to party with these new friends, listen to music and enjoy Brooklyn.

In power outages, the young black love with all its insecurities, mistakes, emotions, honesty and humanity makes it a lush read. Even in the midst of their fears, these characters are wonderfully respectful of everyone’s choices. You will encourage them all to find their own love at the right time. And although it was written for young adults, Blackout is a must read for all generations.

Denny S. Bryce is the author of the historical novel Wild women and the blues.

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