This Town Is on Fire

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. Jul. 2023. 448p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063212626.
Gr 9 Up–Naomi Henry is a popular cheerleader with a best friend who is practically her sister. She is also one of the few Black students in a primarily white school and town and deals with everything from microaggressions to blatant racism on a regular basis, even from her close friends. Naomi is trying to balance finding her own interests, like natural hair care and joining the dance team, and maintaining her existing relationships with friends who can’t relate to those things. Then Naomi’s white best friend, Kylie, goes viral in the worst way—for calling the police on two Black teen boys. Naomi is caught in the middle, her loyalty to Kylie and her family at war with her feelings about racial injustice and her own lived experience. And when it turns out that Kylie’s actions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to her family’s racism, Naomi is spurred toward activism that has extreme and devastating consequences. The author’s depictions of Naomi’s complex relationships and mixed feelings are appropriately nuanced and realistic for a coming-of-age story, and the dual time lines present in the story add an interesting element of suspense. However, the culminating events of the book feel rushed and lack a detailed resolution.
VERDICT An important addition to high school and teen collections; hand to readers who have read I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal, The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed, and Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne.

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