THE BLACKWOODS

A striking testament to the bonds of family and a perceptive study in how events can echo throughout generations.

Two young women from a Black Hollywood dynasty navigate the choppy waters of 21st-century celebrity while grieving the death of their famous great-grandmother.

Through decades of commitment to her craft and resilience in the face of discrimination, Blossom “Bebe” Blackwood cemented her legacy as an award-winning Black actor and trailblazer. When Blossom passes away at the age of 96, her family celebrates their beloved matriarch and feels adrift without her guidance. This is especially true for 17-year-old cousins Ardith and Hollis Blackwood, who sometimes struggle with the challenges of being born into a highly visible family. Bebe was best friend to Ardith, a devout churchgoer and rising actor. For Hollis, a grounded high schooler content to remain on the outskirts of the Hollywood elite, Bebe represented the beauty of triumph over adversity. As the teens adjust to their new normal, a long-buried secret comes to light, forever changing their perceptions of the great-grandmother they all thought they knew. Colbert’s sprawling novel is a deeply felt love letter to Black Hollywood’s groundbreaking forebears and a tribute to the transformative power of maternal love. Chapters alternate between the voices of the teens in the present day and Blossom’s heartbreaking journey to stardom, providing rich emotional insights layered with thoughtful explorations of the intersectionalities around race, class, and gender.

A striking testament to the bonds of family and a perceptive study in how events can echo throughout generations. (family tree, author’s note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780063091597

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2023

IF ONLY I HAD TOLD HER

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind.

In this companion novel to 2013’s If He Had Been With Me, three characters tell their sides of the story.

Finn’s narrative starts three days before his death. He explores the progress of his unrequited love for best friend Autumn up until the day he finally expresses his feelings. Finn’s story ends with his tragic death, which leaves his close friends devastated, unmoored, and uncertain how to go on. Jack’s section follows, offering a heartbreaking look at what it’s like to live with grief. Jack works to overcome the anger he feels toward Sylvie, the girlfriend Finn was breaking up with when he died, and Autumn, the girl he was preparing to build his life around (but whom Jack believed wasn’t good enough for Finn). But when Jack sees how Autumn’s grief matches his own, it changes their understanding of one another. Autumn’s chapters trace her life without Finn as readers follow her struggles with mental health and balancing love and loss. Those who have read the earlier book will better connect with and feel for these characters, particularly since they’ll have a more well-rounded impression of Finn. The pain and anger is well written, and the novel highlights the most troublesome aspects of young adulthood: overconfidence sprinkled with heavy insecurities, fear-fueled decisions, bad communication, and brash judgments. Characters are cued white.

A heavy read about the harsh realities of tragedy and their effects on those left behind. (author’s note, content warning) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781728276229

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire

Review Posted Online: Jan. 5, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2024

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DIVINE RIVALS

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy.

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A war between gods plays havoc with mortals and their everyday lives.

In a time of typewriters and steam engines, Iris Winnow awaits word from her older brother, who has enlisted on the side of Enva the Skyward goddess. Alcohol abuse led to her mother’s losing her job, and Iris has dropped out of school and found work utilizing her writing skills at the Oath Gazette. Hiding the stress of her home issues behind a brave face, Iris competes for valuable assignments that may one day earn her the coveted columnist position. Her rival for the job is handsome and wealthy Roman Kitt, whose prose entrances her so much she avoids reading his articles. At home, she writes cathartic letters to her brother, never posting them but instead placing them in her wardrobe, where they vanish overnight. One day Iris receives a reply, which, along with other events, pushes her to make dramatic life decisions. Magic plays a quiet role in this story, and readers may for a time forget there is anything supernatural going on. This is more of a wartime tale of broken families, inspired youths, and higher powers using people as pawns. It flirts with clichéd tropes but also takes some startling turns. Main characters are assumed White; same-sex marriages and gender equality at the warfront appear to be the norm in this world.

Ideal for readers seeking perspectives on war, with a heavy dash of romance and touch of fantasy. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-250-85743-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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