The Black Coats

400p. HarperCollins/HarperTeen. Feb. 2019. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780062679628.
Gr 8 Up—Mindy McGinnis's The Female of the Species meets Ally Carter's "Gallagher Girls" in this thriller with deeper themes about grief and justice. Thea Soloman's junior year has been spent running track and grieving for her cousin Natalie until she gets a mysterious invitation. The secret group is called The Black Coats. They are dedicated to the punishment of those who hurt women and they want Thea as a trainee. In return for participation in Balancings, which range from blackmail to beatings, Thea is promised justice for Natalie. As she is drawn deeper in the group, she learns that the Black Coats are not what they seem and that justice is never simple. Thea has a chance to make things right, but not without giving up knowing the truth about Natalie's murder. This is a perfectly paced thriller, even stronger for Thea's grief remaining real and present despite the continuous action. Thea is a complex protagonist who has a clear and relatable motivation, making it much easier to buy into the secret society of women vigilantes. The female friendships far outshine the rather quick-moving romance, easily the weakest part of the book. While there is a fair amount of violence, it's present to serve the plot and themes rather than for shock value.
VERDICT This timely page-turner has a strong hook and will not sit on shelves for long. Recommended for all libraries.

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