Book Review: The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
This was such a beautiful story! The writing was so warm and poetic. Told from two main POVs, both characters of Mabel and Audre deal with complex issues of sexuality and spirituality. Audre leaves Trinidad to live with her father in the states, where she reconnects with Mabel, whose life soon changes for the worst.
This is the first book I've read in a while where the characters felt like they were written FOR black readers, with authentic Black voices, and not just written to explain who we are to other races. I recommend reading along with the audiobook if you can get both. It helped to understand the Trinidad dialect of Audre and her family, along with the natural flow of AAVE (African American Vernacular English) of Mabel and the others, for those who may struggle with connecting to it. Based on the description, you will most likely go into this book expecting one thing, but come out with a completely different experience. I thought this would be a nice coming-of-age love story between two Black girls, but it's so much more than that. It deals with a terminal illness, spirituality, family bonds, and loving yourself above all else. Speaking of family, all the characters were well done and felt like real people (except for 2 of Mabel's friends who felt a little one-dimensional) but they weren't as essential to the story as the family members were. The emotional bond that Mabel and Audre had with their fathers was beautiful. I want to see more Black dads in stories who aren't afraid of being sensitive and vulnerable with their loved ones. Especially their children.
Somewhere around the 50% mark, I started to feel like I was reading a magical fantasy. This book is heavy on spirituality, which isn't a bad thing. I enjoyed it, and it made the story very unique. Especially the ending. It left some readers confused, but if you pay attention, it makes perfect sense and fits well with the journey these girls go on. As far as the romance, I must say, I never felt that connection between Mabel and Audre, and their relationship felt more like a sisterly bond. This book was also a little on the sexually explicit side for YA. Nothing too crazy, and I'm far from a prude as you may know, but the language used in the intimate scenes could've been left out (ex: kissing/licking nipples) but otherwise, a YA story nonetheless.
I recommend this book to anyone who loves Black stories, poetry, and those who are very open-minded about spirituality and sexuality. I look forward to what Junauda Petrus publishes next!
You can find it here on Amazon, wherever books are sold, or at your local library.
Follow Hardy Publications on Facebook!