I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds
Also by this author: All American Boys
Published by Simon and Schuster on January 6th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Death & Dying, Friendship, Emotions & Feelings, People & Places, United States, General, Prejudice & Racism, Bullying
Format: eARC, ARC
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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 “vivid, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption, and grace” (Kirkus Reviews) from the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award–winning 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. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff 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.
The Boy In The Black Suit is the second book I’ve read that has been authored by Jason Reynolds. Each time, each book of his I read, I am blown away by his solid, quiet writing and portrayal of life. Make no mistake, I think that Reynolds is going to be an author that you have got to sit up and take not of. Following When I Was The Greatest, The Boy In The Black Suit does not follow any of those characters, yet it is still set in the City and portrays normal every day life in the City – stoops and brownstones and all.
Jason Reynolds’s The Boy In The Black Suit is about Matt Smith, a seventeen year old African American boy who is grieving. His mother died a few months ago from breast cancer. Matt and his father are barely holding it together. People are treating Matt differently because they do not quite know how to help even though they really want to. Matt is in school for a half day. He has to find a job/internship to fill the other half of his day up – especially because this will help to keep his mind off of his own personal tragedy.
And so, Matt after deciding against a fast food gig at the Cluck Bucket decides to accept a job offer from Mr. Ray, owner of the funeral home, as long as he doesn’t have to ‘touch no dead people.’ Matt finds himself sitting in on funerals and wearing a black suit to school – ostensibly for his job. While sitting in on these funerals, he is able to work through his grief and to realize that he is not the only person in the world carrying grief and loss inside.
Reader friends, I loved Matt’s character. He’s very understated and not the loud sort of in your face, fierce character that I am used to. However, for a contemporary young adult novel, the main character of The Boy In The Black Suit is perfectly pitched. Matt reads like a real person you could have a conversation with. He’s interesting in that he’s feeling his loss quite profoundly. I also liked that he’s a good kid who gets good grades, who works hard at his job, and who has strong interpersonal relationships with his best friend, Chris, as well as the people in his neighborhood. Also? He can cook which plays an important role in Reynolds’s book.
Okay so you might not think that there would be romance in a book about a young man working through his grief at the loss of his mother, but you would be wrong. You never know what is going to happen in life and for Matt, this girl who walks into his life is entirely unexpected. He meets her at one of the funerals, but even before then, she’s working at the Cluck Bucket and Matt finds her attractive, but because he is terrible at girls, he does not make a move. The girl – aptly named Love – connects with Matt because both have lost people. There are other ways that they are connected which boggles the mind. I should mention that the romance is only a small piece of the book and it is really not the focus. However, as this book pretty much focuses on Matt’s whole self, I liked that it was there as an element.
I think that almost every book has an element of world building – in that authors infuse a sense of place and time in their writing. Where Reynolds excels is with his world building. He does such a great job painting life in a Brooklyn neighborhood. There’s the local characters. The smells. The sounds. Even the annoying experience of terrifying cab rides. I think that Reynolds truly brings New York City to life in written form. If you read his book for any reason, read it for the world building. It is superb. I liked the way that he describes a community where everybody knows everybody and it is tightly knit.
Main character Matt finds a positive influence in Mr. Ray, who is the owner and operator of the local funeral home. Mr. Ray prefers the game of War (with cards)to the game of Chess – in that you can’t always guess the next move like with Chess, but that as long as you have cards, like in War, you keep going. I thought that the character of Mr. Ray was richly detailed. He is a good listener. He has a nice house. He works hard. AND! He also has a past.
For such a short book, I am amazed at the details packed into Reynolds’s quiet young adult book. So much about this book feels so real and vivid. It shows that you do not need one million words to evoke images – sometimes a few will do. The Boy In The Black Suit is such a fantastic read about an interesting neighborhood and a young man working through the biggest loss he’s ever endured. I absolutely do not hesitate to say you need to get your hands on a copy of this book and that you should place this book within the reach of someone who is grieving. Words help and I truly think that this book could certainly help.