Cover Image: What the Fireflies Knew

What the Fireflies Knew

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Member Reviews

Immersive and expertly crafted. A recommended purchase for collections where upmarket/litfic is popular.

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“The house is silent and smells like a mix between the old people that kiss my cheeks at church, and the tiny storage unit where all our stuff lives now.”—Kai Harris, What the Fireflies Knew.

Author Kai Harris does a beautiful job capturing the space between KB’s Black childhood and adolescence in her own authentic voice. As I read this short novel, I could picture the young narrator telling her story, not comprehending what is happening to her. Her dialect, however, became cumbersome, and I had trouble connecting with the characters. What The Fireflies Knew contains some wonderful life lessons about growing up, coping with change, and the treasure that is family, but I couldn’t get past the writing style. The book is most appropriate for young adult readers. 3.5 stars.

** Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy of this book. The opinions expressed are my own.

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Thank you, Tiny Reparations Books, for the gifted copy of What the Fireflies Knew {partner}

Genre: Fiction
Format: 🎧
Pub Date: 2.1.2022
Star Rating: ☆☆☆.5

"Sometimes you gotta give up something you want to get something you need."

In this beautifully written debut, we follow Kenyatta (KB) as she embarks on a summer with her sister at their grandfather's. The two girls are sent to live with their grandfather while their mother seeks help to deal with the untimely loss of her husband. During this summer, KB discovers just what family means and finds herself face-to-face with some difficult realities.

The entire book is told from the perspective of KB, but I wish the reader had a chance to hear from Nia and their mother. It would've added a whole different dimension to this story and, in a way, given it a more profound impact on the reader. Because, when it comes down to it, every character offered a lesson to learn what it means to lose yourself, find yourself again, and forgive those that let you down.

👧🏾Told from the perspective of eleven-year-old KB
✨ Debut novel
☀️ Told over one summer
🙃 Ending left me asking, "that's it?"

❌ Drug addiction, overdose, sexual assault, racism, depression

If you've read this one and wish you could've heard from KB, Nia, and their mother, I recommend reading Black Cake, as it offers a multi-generational narration.

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I received an ARC of this book from Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Heavy, beautiful story. Really enjoyed the narrator.

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Narrated by a child that unfortunately has to experience things that no child should have to. She still tries to see the light in the world and uses books to escape.

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An absolute joy to read. I haven't read many books written in a child's perspective that weren't jFic, but I absolutely adored reading this because it felt so honest and real. While the ending wasn't exactly what I expected, and I thought it felt a little too vague, I liked that it wasn't a neatly-tied-in-a-bow situation.
The characters were all so different, and though the narrator would talk about how they were similar, the author did such a wonderful job in creating different characters that felt alive and never stagnant. It was a fairly quick read and hard to put down. Would recommend to anyone.

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Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC digital copy. I have not been compensated for my opinion and this is an honest review.

Overall, this was a good summer read. There was one specific scene that did not seem to add anything necesssary to the plot and I wish it had been left out. Not at all in a censorship way, but rather that I think the story would have been more fluid without it.

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This. Book. Was. FANTASTIC. As someone who grew up and lived in Lansing for most of my life, I was so heartened to read about the places and things that were familiar to me. This was such a heartwarming, if at sometimes heavy, book about who is family, what it means to love your family, and growing up.

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Coming of age. Made me cry. Made me hope. Lots to talk about in book clubs

Written like a classic southern tale ans should be added to school summer reading lists

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This book was troubling to read just because the story is sad. But there are happy times in the book and the ending is satisfying.

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This book both broke my heart and warmed it at the same time.

It was very slow-paced, but not in a bad way -- I actually really enjoyed the way the slow pace captured how it felt to be an 11-year-old girl at times. It's not always exciting, full of adventure and playtime. Sometimes it's just...boring. And watching KB maneuver that was simultaneously a nice reminder of childhood and a relief that I'm no longer a kid, because growing up is almost never pretty.

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This was a book that I was super excited for and wanted to love so much. Unfortunately, the story just didn't hit home. It was slow moving and at times felt rushed and forced. KB is an eleven year old girl full of questions and longing, especially as she and her sister, Nia are left in the care of their grandfather until their mom is able to return. There is a little bit of drama, a sprinkle of racism and even some trauma that I feel was not fleshed out. All though, I think this was a good attempt it just did very little to pull me in.

I just reviewed What the Fireflies Knew by Kai Harris. #WhattheFirefliesKnew #NetGalley

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What a beautiful and lyrically written novel. Kai Harris swept me away to Michigan and the story of KB's journey through adolescence. This book is an important window into the experience of others.

An ode to Black girlhood and adolescence as seen through KB's eyes, What the Fireflies Knew follows KB after her father dies of an overdose and the debts incurred from his addiction cause the loss of the family home in Detroit. Soon thereafter, KB and her teenage sister, Nia, are sent by their overwhelmed mother to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing, Michigan. Over the course of a single sweltering summer, KB attempts to navigate a world that has turned upside down.

Her father has been labeled a fiend. Her mother's smile no longer reaches her eyes. Her sister, once her best friend, now feels like a stranger. Her grandfather is grumpy and silent. The white kids who live across the street are friendly, but only sometimes. And they're all keeping secrets. As KB vacillates between resentment, abandonment, and loneliness, she is forced to carve out a different identity for herself and find her own voice.

A dazzling and moving novel about family, identity, and race, What the Fireflies Knew poignantly reveals that heartbreaking but necessary component of growing up--the realization that loved ones can be flawed and that the perfect family we all dream of looks different up close.

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A great coming of age story. Following a family that experiences a devastating and traumatic event in their lives and how each one of them deals with the emotions of it all. Black mental health is a key point in this story and how Black women are supposed to be strong and keep their families in tact without thinking about their own mental health first. I was happy to see the story showed a strong black woman realizing her limits and taking the time needed to repair her mental health.

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I had a hard time getting invested into the protagonist of this book. I don’t always love a child narrator, and that was true for this book. It felt difficult to read and I wasn’t captivated.

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Having recently finished “What the Fireflies Knew” by Kai Harris, I am happy to have had the chance for the preview; thank you NetGalley and Tiny Reparations Books!

This story follows a character that will definitely stay with me. We are a part of Kenyatta’s (KB’s) summer of discovery, and slowly pulled into her tragic backstory told during the June of 1995 portion of the book, her discovery of truths throughout July, and by August, as the summer ends, KB’s story has become one to remember! Unfortunately, her tragedies are there, yes, but so are the many other moments that make this a wonderful story about growth and healing. I loved this spunky little Black girl from Detroit! A fan of Anne of Green Gables and lover of books! As they helped Kenyatta, great stories get many of us through tough times by taking us away for a while. What the Fireflies Knew is THAT kind of story!

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This book blew me away! I was unable to but it down. Perfect, dazzlingly, very well written. The details the author described throughout the book was so amazing. The characters and storyline were fantastic. The ending I did not see coming Truly Amazing and appreciated the whole story. This is going to be a must read for many many readers. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! No spoilers. Beyond amazing I enjoyed this book so very much. The characters and storyline were fantastic. The ending I did not see coming Could not put down nor did I want to. Truly Amazing and appreciated the whole story. This is going to be a must read for many many readers. Maybe even a book club pick.

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Splendidly frank and emotionally gripping. The narrator is at once so vulnerable and so tough. Readers will want to reach in and hug her.

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I was given an advanced reader copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I thoroughly enjoyed this story told through the voice of 10 year old Kenyatta, wise beyond her years, at times tragic, but gloriously real. Highly recommend!

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What the Fireflies Knew is told from the perspective of 11-year-old Kenyatta Bernice (KB) as she and her sister, Nia, try to make sense of their new surroundings over the course of a summer. The girls have already experienced loss. Their dad dies of a drug overdose. The family home in Detroit is lost due to debts incurred from his addiction. Their overwhelmed mother sends KB and Nia to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing.

Imagine how KB must feel. Through descriptive scenes and actions told in wonderful prose, readers learn that KB is very inquisitive. KB is often dismissed because of her age but respectfully asks questions and demands answers. I rooted for KB's peace the whole novel through. This fictional story set in my hometown is so well told!

I love a good coming-of-age novel. What the Fireflies Knew checked all the boxes. It was engaging, a slow build to climax, relatable and perfect character development. Author Kai Harris captured the innocence and voice of an 11-year-old Black girl. Within the first couple chapters, I was so endeared to the main character. The main theme resonates long after I've turned the last Kindle page: loved ones can be flawed and that's okay.

Happy Pub Month, Kai Harris! Keep using your voice to uplift the Black community. What the Fireflies Knew is now available.

Disclaimer: An advance copy was received directly from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Opinions are my own and would be the same if I spent my hard-earned coins.


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