New York is my favorite city in the world, so of course I had to read this collection of short stories taking place one summer night when a heatwave makes the city go dark. And I’m happy to say that I got all the New York vibes I was hoping for!
In essence, Blackout is a collection of six short stories (even though they are divided into more chapters to connect the different stories and characters along the way) that are all featuring Black teens dealing with relationship issues that are put to the test during a blackout in New York. Each of the story focuses on a specific relationship issue and with different characters, but along the way the six stories eventually connect and add different view points from other characters. I really loved the way the stories were interconnected, which made it closer to a novel than an anthology, and the amazing queer representation.
My two favorite stories were All the Great Love Stories... and Dust by Dhonielle Clayton and Seymour and Grace by Nicola Yoon. The first one was about two childhood friends who secretly felt more than friendship for each other. It was such a sweet story and I loved the scrap book and literature references. The second one was about two strangers meeting on an Uber ride, who end up discussing philosophy, the meaning of life, their family history, friendship and relationship in such a fun and romantic way that really warmed my heart.
The Long Walk by Tiffany D. Jackson was a story divided into several chapters that followed the two exes Tammi and Kareem as they competed for the same internship and ended up having to walk all the way to Brooklyn together. And having to talk about why their relationship really ended in the first place… Kareem was such a sweetheart, but I never really warmed to Tammi, who in my opinion didn’t take responsibility for her actions and tried to blame the failed relationship solely on Kareem, when she had just as much, or even more, to do with their breakup. But it was entertaining to follow their walk through the city while dealing with their issues!
Made to Fit by Ashley Woodfolk was a really sweet story about two girls falling in love when visiting a senior living facility, just like the residents/relatives had predicted, but with a little bit too much of instalove.
Mask Off by Nic Stone was also a story divided into several chapters about a closeted basketball player and his secret crush, who get stuck on a train during the blackout. I really liked the glimpses we got to see of their past and their history together and Tremaine was such a brave and wonderful character. The basketball player JJ on the other hand was not a favorite, in the way he didn’t stand up for himself or his beliefs.
No Sleep ‘til Brooklyn by Angie Thomas was my least favorite of the stories. It was full of cliches and I the emerging love triangle and the characters didn’t engage me enough. It all felt quite artificial and bland, sadly. Except for the bus driver, who was such a gem!
Overall, this was a sweet, hopeful, light and easy read with amazing representation and perfect New York vibes! I really enjoyed the stories and the characters, even though none of them stole my heart, and the whole concept of this anthology.
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Odd One Out is a unique take on the triangle trope, with the important message that it is okay to question your sexual identity and the label you have given yourself to try and find ways to feel comfortable with yourself, your feelings and your values. It is a story that is so real, awkward, funny and as messy as teenage life is when you’re questioning yourself and your sexuality.
The book follows the three teenagers Courtney, Jupiter and Rae, and is divided into three sections, one for each different character. Courtney is a straight black boy in love with his best friend, even though he knows she will never feel the same way because she’s a lesbian. Rae is a biracial Irish/Korean new girl at school, a people-please and apparently, not as straight as she thought. Jupiter is a biracial black girl who has two dads and a proud lesbian, as well as Courtney’s best friend and completely obliviate to his feelings.
I don’t think I’ve ever read anything similar, with these three blocks instead of alternating POVs, but I liked it. Especially Courtney’s parts, he was definitely my favorite character and voice in the book, I really got him. More than I did the girls. I think that having two questioning queer people in one book might have been a bit too much, in the end it all got a little too messy.
Reading this book was such a rollercoaster of rooting for the characters one second, then really disagreeing with their choices the next. But I feel like that was kind of the point and that the messiness was what made this book so unique and made it feel real. Life is messy and as a teenager you should be allowed to be messy and make bad decisions in order to figure out who you are and where and how you fit into the world. I really appreciated the talk about labels that Nic Stone added to the story in the end. It’s an important discussion to have and to realise that labels can change and it can be scary to change them and question who you are.
My main problem (and the reason why I only rated this book 3 stars) wasn’t that the characters were questioning their sexuality and changing labels, it was how the changes were portraited. I did not appreciate the way that Jupiter discovered that she was bisexual, it all left a stale after-taste, almost as if she was “fixed” by having sex with a boy. I also did not appreciate the way she herself pretty much disregarded bisexuality as a genuine label. Questioning your sexuality is normal and there is nothing wrong with changing your label, but it has to be good representation and not the opposite.
But, even though I didn’t agree with many of the choices made by the characters, and have some objections to the representation, I still feel that this is an important book that shows how complicated it is to navigate personhood, to question your sexuality while falling in love, to be biracial and to deal with homophobia, to grieve a family member and deal with past traumas. There were certain things about the plot that I found completely unbelievable and really distracted me from the story, but I still really enjoyed the relationships and the complexities between Coop and Jupiter and Rae, and how this book can help initiate important discussions.
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All 1 Star 2 Stars 3 Stars 4 Stars 5 Stars Abbi Glines Abdi Nazemian Adam Silvera Adib Khorram Aiden Thomas Aisha Saeed Aislinn Brophy AJ Collins Alexandra Christo Alex Beltran Alexene Farol Follmuth Alexis Hall Alex Kelly Alex Sanchez Alice Dolman Alice Oseman Ali Hazelwood Alison Cochrun Al Riske Alwyn Hamilton Amanda Ferreira A. Meredith Walters Amy Aislin Amy Harmon Amy S. Foster Amy Spalding André Aciman Andy V Roamer Angie Thomas Annabeth Albert A. Poland Ashley Poston Ashley Woodfolk Ashlyn Kane Audrey Coulthurst Becca Fitzpatrick Becky Albertalli Benjamin Alire Saenz Beth Bolden Bill Konigsberg B.L. Maxwell Briar Prescott Bri Spicer Brooke Skipstone Cale Dietrich Casey McQuiston Cassandra Clare C.F. White C.G. Drews Charli Meadows Chris Bedell Ciara Smyth Clarissa Pattern C.L. Beaumont Colette Davison Colleen Hoover Crystal Frasier C.S. Pacat Daven McQueen David Biddle David Yoon Dean Atta Debbie McGowan Debbie Rigaud Debbie Schrack Deborah Harkness Delia Owens Deonn Tracy D.G. Carothers Dhonielle Clayton Douglas Stuart Dustin Thao Elisa A. Bonnin Elizabeth Acevedo Elizabeth Arroyo Elle Kennedy Elle Wright E. Lockhart Emily M. Danforth Emily Mims Erin Watt Ernest Cline Evan J. Corbin Eve Morton Everina Maxwell Evie Dunmore Felice Stevens Grace Williams Gwen Martin Hanya Yanagihara Hayden Stone Heather Truett H.E. Edgmon Hettie Bell Holly Black Hope Irving Hudson Lin Ingrid Sterling Jacqueline Lee Jacqueline Woodson Jamie Deacon Jandy Nelson Jax Calder Jay Hogan Jeanette Winterson Jeff Zentner Jenna Evans Welch Jenn Burke Jennifer E. Smith Jennifer G. Edelson Jennifer Gilmore Jennifer Iacopelli Jennifer Kropf Jennifer Niven Jenny Downham Jenny Han Jeremy Ray Jesse H. Reign Joelle Lynne John Green Jonny Garza Villa Julianne Donaldson Julian Winters Kacen Callender Kami Garcia Kara Leigh Miller Kasie West Kate Larkindale Katharine McGee Kathleen Mareé KD Casey Kendall Grey Kevin Van Whye Kiley Reid Kim Fielding Kim Holden Kim Liggett Kitty Bardot Kris Ripper K.S. Marsden Laura Hall Laura Pavlov Laura Silverman Lauren James Laurie Frankel Leah Johnson Lee Matthew Goldberg Leigh Bardugo Leylah Attar Lisa Henry Lisa Williamson Lisa Wingate Liv Rancourt Liz Plum Lola Noire Lynn Michaels Mackenzi Lee Madeline Miller Magdalena Di Sotru Maggie Doolin Maggie Stiefvater Malin Persson Giolito Malorie Blackman Margaret Stohl Marie Lu Mary E. Pearson Mason Deaver Matthew R. Corr Melina Marchetta Meredith Russo Miel Moreland Mila Gray Miranda Kenneally Moa Backe Astot Morgan James M. Tasia Nancy Garden Natalie Haynes Nicholas Sparks Nicola Yoon Nic Starr Nic Stone Nina Kenwood Nita Tyndall Nora Sakavic N.R. Walker Owen Lach Penny Aimes Phil Stamper Quinn Anderson Rachael Brownell Rachael Lippincott Rachel Hawkins Rainbow Rowell Ray Stoeve Renée Dahlia Rhiannon Wilde Riley Hart River Braun Roan Parrish Robin Gow Roseanne A. Brown Rowan MacKemsley Ruby Moone Ruta Sepetys Ryan La Sala Sally Green Sally Rooney Sarah J. Maas Sarah Waters Sarina Bowen Sasha Laurens Saundra Mitchell Saxon James Serena Bell Shannon O’Connor Sidney Bell Simone Elkeles Siryn Sueng Sophia DeRise Sophia Soames Sophie Gonzales S.R. Lane Stephen Chbosky Stephenie Meyer Steven Salvatore Susan Mac Nicol Suzanne Collins Tahereh Mafi Tal Bauer Tamara Girardi Teagan Hunter Terry J. Benton-Walker Tiffany D. Jackson Timothy Janovsky T.J. Klune T.L. Bradford Tobly McSmith Tomasz Jedrowski Tomi Adeyemi Val Wise Veronica Rossi Veronica Roth V.E. Schwab Victor Dixen Victoria Aveyard V.L. Stuart Wesley Chu Xan Van Rooyen Yamile Saied Méndez