Review of Light It Up

Light It Up
by Kekla Magoon
Middle School, High School    Holt    359 pp.    g
10/19    978-1-250-12889-8    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-250-12890-4    $9.99

In this follow-up to How It Went Down (rev. 11/14), Peach Street is seething. Two years after a young man was gunned down by police on the same street, the neighborhood must grapple with shock, loss, sorrow, and outrage after yet another “officer-involved shooting.” Shae Tatum, a thirteen-year-old girl heading home from tutoring, has been shot from behind and killed. Protests erupt as the community seeks accountability and justice. However, the road to justice is riddled with many obstacles, as the voices of individuals from the neighborhood, law enforcement, and the justice system collide in a cacophony of opinions, perspectives, and alternate versions of the truth, as reported in the news and on social media. In a mesmerizing narrative told in a series of character vignettes, Magoon continues to explore systemic injustice and collective trauma while humanizing the people who are directly and deeply affected by them. The vignettes are often searing, heartbreaking, and raw; but tenderness, love, and hope are also prominent themes. Kimberly and Jennica, friends and roommates, navigate a changing relationship; Tyrell (whose best friend Tariq was the one shot and killed two years before), now at college, attempts to leave the sorrows of Peach Street behind; Will tries to make sense of the killings through his art; Brick, the neighborhood kingpin, threatens violence of his own while unexpectedly finding love instead. The masterful interweaving of stories provides a simultaneously intimate and bird’s-eye view of a nation that preaches “justice for all” but has yet to fully grant it.

From the November/December 2019 Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University. She resides in Boston, Massachusetts.

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