I’m Not Dying with You Tonight

Sourcebooks/Fire. Aug. 2019. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781492678892.
Gr 9 Up–High schoolers Lena James and Campbell Carlson are not what most people would consider best friends. Lena is African American and a bit rough around the edges. Campbell is white and finding her place at a new school. They unexpectedly befriend each other when a racist incident occurs at their high school football game and results in a riot in the commercial district of town. Lena is pining to reach her unreliable boyfriend, aspiring rapper Black, who is just not that reciprocal about their relationship. Campbell simply wants to go home after working the concession stand on the orders of her dad, who owns the hardware store in town. Their newfound friendship is tested by the riot’s effect on the store and the connection Black’s friends have with it. Segal and Jones have proven themselves a dynamic duo in crafting this fast-paced, honest, and page-turning YA novel. Lena and Campbell navigate through the tough issues of race, class, and community relations in their own different yet similar voices and perspectives. Readers will be relieved that the novel avoids the “white savior” narrative. Some readers may get annoyed with Lena’s obliviousness to Black’s treatment of her, despite concerns from family and friends. Fans of the classic sitcom A Different World will immediately recognize the nod to Lena James, the Hillman student played by Jada Pinkett Smith.
VERDICT Librarians will want to purchase this relevant and discussion-worthy YA novel

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