­HarperTeen. Nov. 2023. 416p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063264922.
Gr 9 Up–Miller’s ambitious debut novel about queer Black boys in Savannah, GA, defies genre categorization. Part teenage love triangle, part conspiracy thriller, part identity narrative, and part gang violence retribution story, it races chaotically to its conclusion and ultimately leaves readers unfulfilled and vaguely confused. The novel alternates between two first-person narrators—Jay and Leroy—as they recount their burgeoning love story amid the backdrop of a community gang war orchestrated by unknown forces. Despite the presence of gang violence, the Savannah described herein is almost completely alien to reality: a utopia where Black queer boys and girls face almost no homophobia from their teenage peers or members of the community, despite openly pursuing each other. It seems too pervasive to not be deliberate, as if the author is attempting to create a parallel universe where these bigotries don’t exist. However, the author’s decision to gloss over the struggles of Southern queer people with homophobia is puzzling when it is revealed through plot events that bigotry is anything but absent from this fictional Savannah.
VERDICT Full of beautiful prose and characters who laugh in the face of toxic masculinity, Miller’s debut has a lot of promise—especially in terms of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ representation—but uneven pacing and overly complicated plotlines keep it from its full potential.

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