Blackout book review
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Blackout book review

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I just want everyone to understand that I completely get what the authors were attempting to do with this book; however, I think that this book needed a little more work in terms of execution. Black love representation is important, but I also believe that having that representation doesn’t automatically make it a 5 star book. I always find it hard to rate anthologies especially the way that this one was told, but I’ll discuss each story individually and then how I think it came together as a full body of work.

The Long Walk by Tiffany D. Jackson

This specific story focused on ex’s Tammie and Kareem as they run into each other at a summer internship opportunity. It’s the jumping off point for the entire novel because it’s at the beginning of this story that New York City goes dark. Jackson’s story is woven throughout the course of the book and I’m not exactly sure why that method was chosen, but it does work to introduce and get glimpses of the other couples as their stories begin and end. This is a second chance romance that has a heavy miscommunication trope. Honestly, I adored Kareem. He’s extremely supportive, caring, and helps navigate the conversation so the two could work out their feelings. While I didn’t enjoy Tammie as much as a character, it was great to see her acknowledge some errors she made in their relationship. The writing was good.

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Mask Off by Nic Stone

Nic Stone follows Tiffany D. Jackson with a queer male/male love story about Tremaine and JJ. What I loved about this story is that it explores bisexuality amongst Black teenage boys and that is EXTREMELY important; however, there were moments where I felt as though Nic tried too hard. There is a way to seamlessly incorporate certain social themes/important discussions into stories; however, it stands out like a sore thumb when an author tries too hard. For example, it’s great that Nic wanted JJ to be socially conscious of a woman’s right to breastfeed in public, but the way it was written was extremely awkward. I also wanted more insight to the potential romance between Tremain and JJ. They had this childhood friends to lovers romance going on and it wasn’t explored enough for me.

Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk

Ashley Woodfolk came through with the cute sapphic romance between Joss and Nella. This one had a nice little twist to it and a few elements of forced proximity. And while I saw the twist coming, I still enjoyed reading the character reactions. Unlike the other stories, there were side characters in this story that made it more interesting. It takes place at Althea House which is a senior living facility. Nella’s grandfather stays there while Joss typically visits to help with programming. I was invested in this story and wanted more by the time that I finished because I loved the chemistry that Nella and Joss had. There was paralleling that was constructed between Nella and Joss meeting for the first time and Nella’s grandparents meeting for the first time and it made the story even more endearing. I enjoyed Woodfolk’s writing in this story as per usual. I would love to see her do a story like this outside of the anthology.

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All the Great Love Stoires….and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton

This was an interesting story for a few different reasons. It’s a childhood friends to lovers romance. It takes place in the NYPL and the entire plot of the book takes place over a bet that the main characters Lana and Tristan make. It’s clear from Lana’s internal dialogue that she’s in love with Tristan and she’s used this bet to tell him that she loves him as more than a friend. One thing that I struggled with when reading this story is the believability of Tristan’s feelings for Lana. He talks about other girls in front of her in a way that makes it hard to believe that he would turn around and have feelings for her. This could have been solved with a dual perspective, but readers are left trying to navigate his outward actions versus his internal dialogue. It was a solid read, but it wouldn’t have stood out to me if it didn’t take place in the library.

No Sleep Till Brooklyn by Angie Thomas

This, for me, was the worst story out of the group. It’s supposed to be a love triangle between Kayla, Rashad, and Micah that doesn’t really end up being a love triangle. The main character has an epiphany of self-discovery after talking to the bus driver that was almost too good to be true. Kayla and Rashad had been dating for a long time when she meets Micah and realizes he gives her butterflies and goosebumps. Technically, there is some emotional cheating that happens. Although it’s not on page, it is described as her making excuses to go to study hall to see him, trying to spend time with him, interviewing the track team just so she can talk to him, etc. I understand that this was supposed to be a different take on Black love (this is clearly about Black self-love); however, I just don’t think it was executed well.

Seymour and Grace by Nicola Yoon

This was the final story in the book which focused on Seymour and Grace. Seymour is a ride share driver who’s picked up Grace to go to block party that everyone in the previous stories has talked about. Their romance was interesting because while I loved Seymour, I’m not sure how Grace came to such a quick conclusion about her ex. I honestly wish that this wasn’t the last story, but it was a solid read.

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Overall, I saw, understood, and acknowledge what the writers were attempting to do with the story; however, execution was key and all of the stories didn’t have that. In fact, I will go as far to say that everyone who is part of this anthology isn’t a great romance writer. And that’s perfectly fine! There is nothing wrong with that; however, it does change the dynamics of the story. Yoon had the perfect opportunity to both go out with a bang as well as neatly tie the entire book together. Readers have no knowledge of what’s happened to these characters outside of the 2-3 sentence Yoon wrote in a paragraph. There should have been just a tad bit more exploration. Overall, I think that this was a solid read; however, it’s not on my favorites list for 2021.

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