You guys. If you want to read an absolutely amazing book, you are mistaken if you think it is anything but Out of Darkness [IndieBound] by Ashley Hope Pérez. I am pretty heartless and so even the saddest books don’t exactly make me cry, but the few times I have gotten close to that (Last Night I Sang to the Monster [IndieBound], Eleanor & Park [IndieBound]) have just been blown out of the water. Ashley Hope Pérez wins.
I’m not a huge fan of stories of star-crossed lovers because I find a lot of love in YA to be bleh and insta-love to be far-fetched and just plain obnoxious. I was totally fine with this one. I also get tired of historical fiction romance because it’s so chaste and boring and furthers this idea that historical people were entirely different humans than we are. This book takes place in 1937, but it actually felt contemporary in its humanness and also broke down the other idea we have that history has only ever been filled with white people except during specific racial events like slavery or civil rights or railroad building. You know, cause then we all disappear for awhile. So WOW was I happy to have a historical fiction book about a time in history that we only talk about white people, except this starred a Mexican American girl and a black boy.
This book has everything, by which I mean it is chock full of actual issues that affect people’s daily lives, like class and family issues. To be blunt about it for people who are afraid of diversity, this is a book that is white-friendly because it has love, but it will also really speak to people of color with its educated black family that knows it’s in a region that doesn’t like or support them but still demands that their son “pay Booker” every day with the money he earns at odd jobs so that his college fund builds and he can go to Tuskegee. It brings up the confusion of whether you’re seen as white or colored or something else entirely when you’re brown and Mexican American. It shows you what it’s like to have grown up a Spanish speaker and now live with English speakers. It deals with trying to pass and only doing so some of the time.
It has oral sex, because that actually is not an invention that you can only have in contemporary literature. It deals with grappling with sexual desire when you’ve also experienced sexual assault.
It has violence, because violence is a real thing in many people’s lives. It also has believable love that is built slowly and worked on and that takes steps forward and back, rather than being instant or easy or melodramatic.
Basically it’s amazing, and you’re going to go read it now.