Coles’ debut takes on the heartbreaking outcomes of a broken system of policing.
Through language that honors the enraging aspects of life in the inner city, readers meet Marvin and Tyler Johnson, twin high school seniors at a crossroads. Narrator Marvin jokes that their family story can feel like the stereotype for black boys. Their father is in jail, and Mama works extra hard to keep the family stable, leaving room for the influence of the streets to creep into their lives. All this is irrelevant when a police officer shoots Tyler dead after he attends a questionable neighborhood party. This is not the first time that Marvin and his friends have witnessed police violence. They’ve seen officers lift firearms at children, slam them to the ground, and verbally abuse them, with no consequences. Deep down, Marvin knows that he cannot become the hate that he senses in the world around him. This family’s struggle to find resolve, peace, and even a twinge of justice is full of life lessons, including this gem inspired by Auntie Nicola, a former cop: “Life is about wading in the rain, in all the storm’s fury…becoming one and the same with the storm—getting angry, getting heated, and being the change you want.” Coles, just 21, pens an immersive and uncompromising look at systemic police violence in the U.S.
While the author’s toolbox has some room for growth, he effectively dramatizes the human experience and ethical questions underpinning today’s Movement for Black Lives. (Fiction. 14-18)