The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games

240p. bibliog. index. notes. New York University Pr. May 2019. Tr $28. ISBN 9781479800650.
RedReviewStarThomas (Graduate School of Education, University of Pennsylvania) synthesizes theory from several disciplines to build her model of "the dark fantastic"—a cycle in which Black female characters are sidelined in mainstream fantasy narratives for young adults. Readers unfamiliar with cultural criticism or the four properties discussed—"Harry Potter," the book and film The Hunger Games, the BBC's Merlin, and the CW's The Vampire Diaries—are offered a clear way in to understanding the dark fantastic cycle and why breaking it matters. Thomas writes as an academic but also brings in the personal, quoting DeBarge lyrics when reflecting on the role of fantasy in her Detroit girlhood and sharing the story of her involvement with, and subsequent departure from, an early online "Harry Potter" community. The final chapter, "Hermione Is Black," focuses primarily on "restorying" accomplished by diverse and interactive fandoms. Kid lit professionals concerned that no newer texts are covered will find the case studies laced throughout with mentions of more current works and controversies.
VERDICT Valuable for introducing readers to a range of concepts (critical race, reader response, postcolonial, and monster theory), this is an important work of criticism on an underexamined topic.

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