Tag Archives: race relations

Review: Gone Wolf by Amber McBride

Gone Wolf by Amber McBride cover shows a girl with curly hair and dark skin. A pair of light-skinned hands cover her eyes. The eyes of a wolf appear over her collar bones.

Gone Wolf
Amber McBride
Feiwel & Friends
Published October 3, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Gone Wolf

Award-winning author Amber McBride lays bare the fears of being young and Black in America, in this middle-grade novel that has been compared to the work of Jordan Peele and praised as ” brilliantly inventive storytelling” by Publishers Weekly.

In the future, a Black girl known only as Inmate Eleven is kept confined — to be used as a biological match for the president’s son, should he fall ill. She is called a Blue — the color of sadness. She lives in a small-small room with her dog, who is going wolf more often – he’s pacing and imagining he’s free. Inmate Eleven wants to go wolf too―she wants to know why she feels so Blue and what is beyond her small-small room.

In the present, Imogen lives outside of Washington DC. The pandemic has distanced her from everyone but her mother and her therapist. Imogen has intense phobias and nightmares of confinement. Her two older brothers used to help her, but now she’s on her own, until a college student helps her see the difference between being Blue and sad, and Black and empowered.

In this symphony of a novel, award-winning author Amber McBride lays bare the fears of being young and Black in America, and empowers readers to remember their voices and stories are important, especially when they feel the need to go wolf.

My Review

The first book I read by Amber McBride was ME: MOTH, which is a novel in verse. I loved the twisty storytelling. It’s one of those books where you reach a point where everything changes, and you look back at everything you’ve read with a new perspective. I loved that about the book.

GONE WOLF is prose rather than poetry. It also has some twisty storytelling, and I felt like there was the same kind of turning-point moment where I looked back at everything through a different lens. (This is hinted at in the cover copy, so I don’t think I’m spoiling anything.)

The book definitely delves into some tough topics in a pretty unflinching way. The juxtaposition of the Civil Rights Movement, slavery, and a futuristic setting was really thought-provoking. It was interesting to see familiar pieces of history alongside dystopian elements. Somehow, it made them resonate more sharply, maybe because it had that awful ring of the worst kinds of history repeating themselves.

I found it easy to get lost in the story and in trying to figure out how the two narratives connected. Future Imogen’s horror at her discoveries about the world she lives in and the ways she tries to break out of that world hit hard. I rooted for her from the beginning to end.

On the whole, I found this to be a truly captivating story. It’s got a young narrator– I think Imogen is twelve– but I would not call this middle grade. I think it’s actually a coming-of-age story.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 12 up.

Imogen is Black.

Profanity/Crude Language Content

Romance/Sexual Content

Spiritual Content

Violent Content
Some brief strong violence, including violence against an animal.

Imogen witnesses a woman being beaten. She sees someone execute a dog. Imogen and a friend offer ice to people who’ve been attacked as part of a Civil Rights protest.

Drug Content

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Review: Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Dear Martin
Nic Stone
Crown Books for Young Readers
Published on October 17, 2017

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

About Dear Martin

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

My Review

Okay, wow. I liked this book so much. I wondered a little bit at the beginning if it would be a lot like THE HATE U GIVE, which I also liked and which had some similar elements. (Kid from a lower income neighborhood going to a private school who has experiences with police brutality, racism and gang violence, even an interracial relationship and how difficult that is for a family member.) And all those elements definitely play a role in this story, but it still felt like a completely different book in the way the story was told.

I loved that Jus writes letters to Dr. King. What a cool way to connect the Civil Rights movement to a present-day story and situation. I also felt like the story captured some of the complexity of a community facing issues like this. While this is Justyce’s story, we also see so many of the other characters respond to what’s happening in striking ways—sometimes because they’re so emotional and other times because they simply aren’t.

I think THE HATE U GIVE is an incredibly powerful story, and I don’t want to take anything away from it or from the amazing author, Angie Thomas, by saying this, but actually, I liked DEAR MARTIN better, if I had to rank them. Amazing story. This one will stay with me for a long time.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 15 up.

Cultural Elements
Justyce and his best friend Manny are black and go to a mostly white school. Justyce’s close friend and debate partner is Jewish. Jus writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Extreme profanity used somewhat frequently. It was sporadic enough that I’d sometimes forget it was in the story. Often used in anger. Some racial epithets also used infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
Jus makes vague mention of experiences with his past girlfriend. His best friend reminds him about an incident in which he caught a girlfriend cheating on him (he references Jus finding her in a compromising position).

Spiritual Content
During a funeral, Jus thinks about his friend’s beliefs and how they contrast what the preacher is saying about living on in Heaven. His friend didn’t believe in God.

Violent Content
Brief descriptions of violence and racial epithets. A couple scenes show or reference one kid punching another. Usually those moments are choppy and out of focus. Another scene shows a man shooting two kids. News stories and conversations reference other shootings.

Drug Content
Jus drinks alcohol twice.

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