The Boy in the Black Suit: A Book Review

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The Boy in the Black SuitTitle: The Boy in the Black Suit

Author: Jason Reynolds

Published: January 6th, 2015 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Pages: 272

Genre: Young Adult / Contemporary

Source: Library / Hardcover

Series: N/A

Summary: Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more — and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down — in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest. Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died — although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills {or anything, really} on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness — and who can maybe even help take it away. {Goodreads}

My Thoughts: With the dozens of new young adult novels published each week, it’s easy for novels worthy of attention to fly under my radar. I don’t do it with intention, but good books escape my notice all the same. Fortunately, it takes only a few positive reviews or trusted mentions before I’m looking for a novel, as was the case with one of my January reads, Jason Reynolds’s The Boy in the Black Suit. An exploration of grief, friendship, and young romance, Reynolds’s sophomore novel may be a hidden gem no longer, for its author was the recent recipient of the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for his debut, When I Was the Greatest. If his first YA novel is just as good as The Boy in the Black Suit, I have plenty to look forward to!

Grief is a challenging subject to discuss, much less write about, but Reynolds makes it seem effortless with his realistic portrayal of Matt’s loss. While the novel doesn’t hide its most prominent theme – the title itself gives hints to the funeral home setting – one can’t dismiss the underlying hope in the story. It’s not an easy read, but it is a quick one; the faith Matt comes to hold in the future balances out the heavier topics, and it keeps the steady pace of the plot. The Boy in the Black Suit falls into my category of “quiet reads,” a term I use to describe novels where there’s far more reflection than action. Readers will not be on the edge of their seats because of the action-packed plot, but they will feel the emotional impact of Matt’s story, which, once again, is a writing skill easier said than done.

This novel already has the power of a raw and authentic story that I feared a romance would cause it more harm than good. I shouldn’t have worried; the relationship between Matt and Lovey grows naturally, and I only wish I could have seen them together longer. While I find the two characters perfect together, alone they demonstrate Reynolds’s outstanding characterization. It’s hard to describe the beauty of Matt’s narration, but even I, an infrequent reader of the male point of view, could notice the realism and depth behind it. He may be a distinct protagonist, and a developed one at that, but it was the supporting characters that stole the spotlight. Chapter by chapter, readers are given more insight into each character’s history, making it easy to see why Matt turns to them for advice, guidance, or companionship. Mr. Ray is certainly on my list of memorable secondary characters.

Thankfully, my list of “complaints” is few {put in quotations because neither of these affected my enjoyment of the story, I only think they are worth pointing out}. One? I would have loved more closure in the storyline between Matt and his father. The roots were set down, but I wished to have seen it grow to its full potential. Two? The ending was tied up all too neatly with coincidences that seem too good to be true. Although I appreciate the effort in connecting the characters, I found the links unnecessary for this well-written novel.

I’m so glad I decided to pick The Boy in the Black Suit up. I started it with high hopes, but I finished it beyond impressed. Character-driven books are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I believe Matt and his “wry, gritty” story will win anyone over {and the diverse cast is only an added plus}.  YA contemporary fans should be adding this to their TBR list, if they are not already rushing to the store for their own copy. Reynolds has made his name in young adult fiction, and I hope – but, frankly can’t see – him leaving anytime soon.

Pros: Superb characterization, realistic and well-paced plot, and diverse cast of characters; I could go on and on, friends :)

Cons: The ending relies on coincidences that seem too good to be true.

Heads Up: Violence and language were the ares of biggest concern.

Recommended for: Fans of YA set in an urban environment, avid contemporary readers, and those who love a strong character-driven novel.

Around the Web: “[Matt] isn’t stereotyped in any way, and he’s also not rendered as a boy who is all feelings, even though he has plenty of them. Rather, he’s fully fleshed, dynamic, and his story has a fulfilling arc” {read the rest of the review at Stacked HERE}.

“I just can’t get over how good the writing was. It’s authentic, real, and blew me away” {read the rest of the review at Once Upon a Twilight HERE}.

“Jason truly is an incredible writer who knows what he’s doing and he’s doing a dang good job at it. This story was captivating and will stay in your mind long after you read it” {read the rest of the review at Forever Bookish HERE}.

Have an amazing Thursday!

Bella

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7 thoughts on “The Boy in the Black Suit: A Book Review

  1. […] The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds | “YA contemporary fans should be adding this to their TBR list, if they are not already rushing to the store for their own copy. Reynolds has made his name in young adult fiction, and I hope – but, frankly can’t see – him leaving anytime soon.” […]

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  2. […] The Boy in the Black Suit was the first novel I read by Jason Reynolds, but I’m determined to make it one of many more. Like Lies We Tell Ourselves, Reynolds’ book has an African-American protagonist; here it is Matt, a teen grappling with his mother’s death and his father’s slow decline. Unlike the previous novel, however, The Boy in the Black Suit is set in modern-day Brooklyn, so it is sure to please any contemporary fan looking for diversity. {review} […]

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  3. […] If you haven’t read one of Jason Reynold’s terrific books, I’ll cut to the chase: you should do so immediately. I myself waited until early last winter to try The Boy in the Black Suit, but I quickly learned why Reynolds has garnered such a legion of fans; he writes with an authentic voice, crafts relatable and honest characters, and explores topics and settings in a distinct style of writing. He has a few novels in the works, and, believe me, I’ll be buying every one. {review} […]

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  4. […] I listed ten “new-to-me” authors in last week’s Top Ten Tuesday, all of whom are worthy candidates for this category, but it was Jason Reynolds, author of The Boy in the Black Suit and co-author of All American Boys, who consistently impressed me. By taking multiple risks and crafting authentic characters in each of his novels, Reynolds has established a growing fanbase, myself included. While I wait for his next book to hit shelves, I have When I Was the Greatest waiting for me. Yes please. {review} […]

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