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Reviewed by LJ Martin for Readers' Favorite
High school can be complicated, dramatic and sheltering and author A. Anon brings these struggles to life in How to Talk to Black People. Knowing she will never fit in, due to coming from a poor and broken family, Ivy has built a strong defense through isolation and anger. Ivy is struggling to figure out who she is and where she belongs during her sophomore year. In between expanding the Dead Parents Club with her best friend Magnus and avoiding the punch-line of the Super Six, Ivy finds herself as the lab partner of the new kid, Alex, the only African American at the school. After an exchange of a racist joke in bad taste towards Alex, Ivy finds herself in a crash course of the sheltered and privileged life she lives. When tragedy strikes the community and her newest friend, Ivy has to put into action the lessons she’s learned and open up to friends or build her wall even higher to keep everyone out.
How to Talk to Black People by A. Anon could be based on one of the many headlines from any news day in America, which made it easy to relate to and hard to grapple with at the same time. Having the story from Ivy’s perspective, a white high school teenage girl, Anon shows how powerfully the culture we grow up in impacts how we interact with different cultures. Many of the ‘ah-ha’ moments Ivy has while learning to interact with Alex and his family are cringe-worthy because the elements of truth are raw and the dialog use brings the tension right off the page. While hard to read at times, I did appreciate the realness of the story and the pain that one person’s words can have towards another. As a reader, I was able to get into Ivy's head and feel the struggle of wanting to fit in, but battling the perceived injustices against her. I was rooting for a change in Ivy’s attitude through experience, but the rawness provided a just ending. This novel is a different perspective on today’s cultural narrative on race.