I know that not all stories are made up of light, sparkle, and unicorn dust. Sometimes you need to peer into the darkness, be brave, and turn on the lights. My latest two books are completely unrelated save for the revealing of the ugly side of humanity that rears its hideous head on a far more regular basis than it ought. They were not comfortable books to read and using words like “enjoy” or “love” are not enough. They will touch nerves. They may make you angry, hopefully for the right reasons and I highly recommend both books.
Devon and Chiamaka have almost nothing in common. Devon is a talented musician working for a coveted spot at Julliard. His mom works 3 jobs to make tuition at the prestigious Niveus School; Chiamaka is one of the most popular girls at school, beautiful and rich. She is working hard to be accepted to an Ivy League school. The only thing they do share is the color of their skin. They are the only two black students at their school. Surprisingly, the last three years have passed with few instances of overt racism. Now, however, their carefully planned lives are beginning to unravel and they find enemies where once there were friends. Aces, a mysterious social media entity, has ferreted out their most closely held secrets and is revealing them, one by one, to the student body. Each day, phones buzz with the latest scandal. Each day, their hopes of a bright future fade a bit more. Who is this Ace of Spades? What does he or she have against them? The answers ae almost too much to bear but together, Devon and Chiamka decide to fight back but is it already too late?
Bisou’s first memory of her grandmother and the last of her mother was blood. Meme found her sitting at the foot of the bed, next to the bloody body of her mother. She was whisked away and grew up under the watchful, loving eyes of Meme. She keeps mostly to herself with her boyfriend, James, as one of the only people outside of her family close to her. That all changes the night of the Homecoming dance. That night she is running through the woods, running away from James and the embarrassing thing that happened when her skin prickles, as if she’s being watched. A low growl reveals her stalker; a huge wolf has sniffed her out. As it attacks, Bisou fights back with more strength and speed than she thought possible and she kills the wolf. She runs the rest of the way home. Instead of panicking Meme sits her down and tells her the story of her past, of blood and wolves, of men and violence. Bisou’s legacy is dark and dangerous but the power she feels now gives her a sense of purpose but when the time comes to fight the evil that has haunted her life, will she be able to face it and be victorious?
Both stories are of surviving evil. Both stories are relevant to what our world is, right now. Dark, dangerous, and deadly for certain people who must be stronger than those who threaten their lives. They made me sad, angry, frightened but, ultimately, hopeful that there are helpers out there. They might be sitting next to you in class, on the bus, at the restaurant. As scary and infuriating as these books were, I think we need to read them and more like them so that we can learn to recognize evil when we see it in ourselves or those around us and work to change it.