that’s our black

I don’t read a lot of thrillers. They seem to be a thing I prefer in my movies over my books. But unlike heists, which I also prefer onscreen, when I do read a thriller, I tend to be wholly entertained and wonder why I don’t read them more often. So I’m glad I read Lamar Giles’ Endangered (IndieBound). It’s about Lauren, who is known to her classmates as Panda, who also has a secret identity – as a vigilante photographer who finds bullies and bad kids in compromising positions and publishes the photos to her anonymous blog, Gray Scales. It’s a great setup for a book.

After publishing incriminating photos about a girl named Keachin (and yes, she makes fun of the girl’s absolutely ridiculous name, so it’s not just a case of books having absurd character names for no reason), Panda gets a text from a “secret admirer,” who then lures her into a game of oneupmanship in photography – oh, and starts threatening and killing people Panda knows. You know how that goes.

So that’s the plot. It’s a fun mystery, and even though I figured out who the admirer was before Panda did, I didn’t care, because that’s beside the point. You’re supposed to try to figure out the clues before the protagonist does. Also, this book made me happy in a lot of other ways, too.

Since you probably know I’m the biracial identity in fiction girl, you will be unsurprised to find out that Lauren is biracial, black and white (her mother is from Germany), and that makes me happy. What’s more, her best friend Ocie (problematically nicknamed from “OCD,” which Ocie does not actually have; real name Mei) is half black and half Chinese. And nobody thinks this is weird, because it’s not, because biracial people exist in the world in abundance. Shocker, right? According to publishers, this is unrealistic, so props to Giles and whoever his editor is in getting this through.

Anyway, I love a lot of things about Panda and Ocie’s relationship, especially their shorthand. As I’ve said before, there’s something about being marginalized, whether it’s race or religion or family situation or sexuality or anything that makes you deviate from the socially engineered “norm” (white, upper middle class, Protestant) that isn’t real anyway, that makes you bond with someone who shares the way that you are different. Panda and Ocie, both being half black, make up a phrase for whenever something bonds them or whenever they find something they both love – “that’s our black.” I love it. It’s funny, it’s a bit vulnerable, and I’ve never heard it before. Awesome. Panda has a further bond, though tenuous for various spoilery reasons, with Taylor, who speaks German as well. These connections come in over and over again, and Giles does a great job speaking to readers who grow up biracial, who grow up other, or who grow up bilingual, without dumbing it down to pander to those “normal” readers who think that they should have everything explained to them in “diverse literature” or it’s too specialized. Fuck them. Anyway. Major points to this book for being for everyone AND for being for the people who don’t get books for them most of the time.

It’s also just a fun ride. So you should read it. I do think the title is dumb and not as good as it could be, but that’s really the only thing wrong with the book.

It comes out next month. Enjoy.


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