Last month, we read The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. I say “we” but Anna didn’t actually manage to read it (something called a “book slump”, she says). So what you get is just my review.
So yeah. Enjoy.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them
Rep: Black lesbian mcs (one Trinidadian), Black Muslim side character, Black cast
CWs: homophobia and child abuse (chapter 3), terminal illness
Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
Rating: 4/5 🌈
I have somewhat conflicted feelings about this book. Yeah, it was good, and I really liked it (for the most part), but I also felt sort of… I don’t know, detached from it? Maybe that’s not the right word exactly. Maybe it’s more like it didn’t go in the direction I expected (and that’s alright).
What I particularly liked about this book is the fact that most of the parents were supportive. In fact, all of those who featured prominently were supportive. Audre’s mum isn’t, true, but she also disappears from the book fairly quickly. And Audre’s dad is a saving grace, really.
Especially at the start, because really, until about a third of the way through the book, I wasn’t that excited by it. Sure, it wasn’t flat out awful, but it wasn’t really it for me. It was cringey in a way I know I find YA nowadays, and sort of boring. And then Mabel’s diagnosis happened, and that’s where it picked up for me. (And the ending! What was that!)
One small question though: anyone else feel really sorry for Neri in all this?
Did you read along with us? What did you think?