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books and reading

Allegedly

Title: Allegedly

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Genre: YA family fiction

I’ve now read all of Tiffany D. Jackson’s books. Monday’s Not Coming, Grown, and Let Me Hear a Rhyme. Unfortunately, I got rejected by Netgalley for her newest. Bummer! But with these four contributions, she’s on my must read list. Anytime a new book comes out, I’ll read it. No question. She has solidified her place in the YA world, in my opinion. And Allegedly, her first novel, is simply outstanding. I was on edge the entire time.

From Goodreads:

Mary B. Addison killed a baby. Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.

Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.

There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?

Whew. Who knows, indeed? Is the real Mary the quiet one who never speaks? Or the one with big dreams? Or the one who intentionally killed a baby? Or the one who accidentally killed a baby? Or one who loves her mother so much that she’ll take the blame for the death? Or is she a combination of a few of these? How this story unfolds is just fantastic. As you get to see more of Mary’s current life (she’s the narrator), she slowly reveals her past to you. And it’s hard at times. If Mary is to be believed, her life as a child was very traumatic. But…. can you believe her? That really is the crux of the story, honestly. And Jackson writes it perfectly. You so desperately want Mary to be a good person, because she still is just a kid after all. But, not all kids are good people. For a first novel, this one was just excellent.

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books and reading

Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Title: Let Me Hear a Rhyme

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Genre: YA fiction

I’ve already read Grown and Monday’s Not Coming from Tiffany D. Jackson, and both books were just outstanding. So I made a point to read her other books. I have Allegedly on my Kindle and will get to it shortly, but this one was a book I’ve heard very little about. And I get why. It’s very different from her other books. It’s fantastic, and I really enjoyed it. I wish it got more hype, though. Whereas her other books are more intense, more edge of your seat, this one is more laid-back. And it’s definitely an homage to her youth. She says in the back of the book that this one is her most personal, and I can see why. She writes about the late 90s in Brooklyn, which is when/where she grew up. When Biggie was murdered, she remembers his funeral, which makes an appearance in the book. Her love and knowledge of hip hop is evident. And where there is a darker plot line, overall the book was less nail-biting than her others.

From Goodreads: Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.

Steph’s death happens before the book begins, which makes the loss easier on the reader. Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are really great, fun, dynamic characters who you cheer for from the outset. While they are trying to get Steph’s voice into the community, they are also trying to find out what happens to him, which is the aforementioned darker storyline. That said, this book was a lot lighter than her others. Sadly, it has nowhere near the ratings on Goodreads. But if you enjoy her books, you should absolutely add this one to your list.

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books and reading

Grown

Title: Grown

Author: Tiffany D. Jackson

Genre: YA music fiction

PopSugar Reading Challenge Prompt: book about art or an artist

As much as I enjoyed Monday’s Not Coming last year, it was an extraordinarily difficult read, dealing with a terrible subject. The book blew me away, though. Even though it was hard to stomach, the subject of children in difficult situations (being vague to avoid spoilers) is extra difficult to read, knowing full well that these things are happening in our world. Putting them to paper must be so hard for Jackson, but I am so thankful that she does. She’s giving a voice to those who have had theirs taken away. Grown doesn’t shy away from trouble, either.

From Goodreads: Korey Fields is dead.

When Enchanted Jones wakes with blood on her hands and zero memory of the previous night, no one—the police and Korey’s fans included—has more questions than she does. All she really knows is that this isn’t how things are supposed to be. Korey was Enchanted’s ticket to stardom.

Before there was a dead body, Enchanted was an aspiring singer, struggling with her tight knit family’s recent move to the suburbs while trying to find her place as the lone Black girl in high school. But then legendary R&B artist Korey Fields spots her at an audition. And suddenly her dream of being a professional singer takes flight.

Enchanted is dazzled by Korey’s luxurious life but soon her dream turns into a nightmare. Behind Korey’s charm and star power hides a dark side, one that wants to control her every move, with rage and consequences. Except now he’s dead and the police are at the door. Who killed Korey Fields? All signs point to Enchanted.

The story isn’t as much of a mystery as this summary leads you to believe. Enchanted’s story of how she met, fell for, and was groomed by Korey Fields. Jackson, in the afterword, makes a point to say that this story is not based on R. Kelly, but it is definitely reminiscent of what he has done to young girls. You know from the first introduction that Korey is a monster, and watching Enchanted fall for him and his lies is difficult. I just wanted to reach into the book and tell her that he cannot be trusted.

I didn’t connect with this book as much as I did with Monday’s Not Coming, but I don’t have a reason why. This book is great, and it’s definitely a must read. I have Allegedly on my kindle and will be making a point to get to Jackson’s other book ASAP.

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books and reading

Monday’s Not Coming

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As I’ve been quarantined, I’ve been riding the stationary bike while listening to a book. I’m usually a podcast person, and I still listen to those when I get a chance, given my kids are in the house and most I listen to are highly inappropriate for kids. But I’m trying to listen to books that are on my PopSugar Reading Challenge and give myself 30 minutes each day of shutting out the world.

At some point, someone online mentioned that this was a book with a made-up language, so I used it for that prompt. The girls in the story, Claudia and Monday, do have a made-up language that only they know, but it’s not a prominent part of the book, but I’m still counting it. This book was really good but very triggering for a lot of people. And it was pretty challenging to listen to because the plot jumps in various timelines- “the before,” “the after,” “one year before the before,” making me really not able to follow *when* things were occurring. Before the before was when Claudia and Monday were friends, living their best middle school lives. The before was when Claudia returned from a summer at her grandma’s to find that Monday is seemingly missing. The after is after Claudia learns what really happened. The multiple timelines are pretty confusing. It was clear when “before the before” was because Monday was there. But the before and the after kept me confused, mostly. Ultimately, the timelines make sense and the full story of what has happened to Monday is revealed.

This powerful book isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of topics that are difficult to read about. However, I also think it’s an important one. Children, too often, go unnoticed. People turn a blind eye to their struggles and voices. So much of Monday’s situation could have been avoided if the right people had done what they could. This book is a cautionary tale, at the very least.