Book Review: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title (utilizing "stars" as an a...

Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge Prompt: A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title (utilizing "stars" as an astrology term, there's also heavy astrological focus within the book)

TW: Death, mild violence, racism, homophobia, illness

I do not have the vocabulary to explain how much I absolutely loved The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. This book is beautifully poetic, well-written, heart-wrenching, and really everything else I could hope for in a book. It's YA at its greatest - a culturally and racially aware queer Black love story. One I'll recommend over and over.

Audre is heartbroken after her mother sends her from her home in Trinidad to live with her father in Minneapolis. Luckily she makes a friend in Mabel, the daughter of her father's best friend. Though Audre likes Mabel, she tends to struggle with her belonging in a new place and doesn't want to share a truth about herself - she's a lesbian and that's why she was sent to live with her dad. Mabel is confused in her own right. She's had a boyfriend, but has felt more for a girl in her class and is developing complicated feelings for Audre. All of this is interspersed with flashback/dreams of Audre's grandmother, Queenie, as a young woman, and a book written by a Black man who's been in prison since he was a teenager. 

I truly don't know how to describe the feelings I had reading this book (the quote below is pretty accurate thought). It was such a powerful story and Petrus did such an amazing job intertwining the different stories in the novel. The book is written in different dialects, so I could really hear Audre's Trinidadian accent and Mabel's casual American. While it would've been easy for that to make the writing sloppy, it just made everything more poetic. I felt like they were talking to me, sharing their deepest thoughts and secrets. I've never felt so encapsulated into a cultural experience through reading. And I was drawn deeper and deeper within every page.

This book has a lot of the big themes I love about YA, many of which I won't share because I don't want to spoil any of this miraculous piece of literature. It was so emotional going through the journeys of confusion and complicated feelings - not understanding your own urges and thoughts. The entire thing was an emotional roller coaster in the best way. What's best is that Audre and Mabel aren't the only queer characters. There's even an explanation to parents about the singer of a band using they/them pronouns. It was so incredibly real and relevant and valid.

Then the parallels learning about Queenie's young life, and the life of Afua, who was wrongly accused of his best friend's murder as a teen. This novel is a story about life and death, love and hatred, prison and freedom. And while that seems like it would be overwhelming, or difficult to follow - it's so poetic and beautiful. The segments of the book are divided up into seasons by utilizing poems for each astrological season. I'm not usually a poem person, but I just really appreciated the ones in this book. Everything flows so magnificently, and I loved the characters so much.

Lastly, there is just a sliver of magical realism, fantasy if you will, or just true spiritualism. I wouldn't take it so far as this book is supernatural. It's more a look at the ancestors, spirituality, and even astrology as themes of life and how they impact the world-view of folks.

"Sometimes this book is real hard, but it's worth it. Not hard as in reading it, but hard as in feeling it, the unfairness of life and how it impacts people who could be something else to this world." - The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, Junauda Petrus

Truly, I cannot recommend The Stars and the Blackness Between Them enough. I'm thankful I grabbed this book from Book of the Month, otherwise I may have never heard about it. I've seen zero hype about it on social or elsewhere. But I will continue sharing it and recommending over and over again. Beautifully written, very raw teenage emotions, lots of culture and storymaking. It's everything I could've asked for in a book. Whether you enjoy YA or not, this book is sure to knock your socks off. Add it to your next BOTM box or click here to grab it from Amazon. Just read it soon!

Goodreads rating: ★★★★★

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