Cover Image: The Black Queen

The Black Queen

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Member Reviews

A high school murder mystery with intertwining commentary on systemic racism and performative activism — while the themes are often poignant and eloquent, much of it does not feel more than supplementary to the plot, which, while being a little more complex than average, is at times boring. If the commentary wasn’t trying to uphold a lukewarm murder mystery, this book would have been a great musing on race in America and the systems that keep us apart.

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I was provided and ARC of this book via Netgalley, however I ended up borrowing the audiobook from the library . This book was published January 31, 2023.

The book is told from the perspectives of Duchess and Tinsley. The use of two different narrators works really well here as you can tell who is telling the story at the time based on the voice you are hearing. This audio does have sound effects like cell phones ringing and door bells as part of the audio experience.

I don't know why I thought this was a horror novel, it is a mystery with an emphasis on social commentary. This takes place in the wake of Nova Albright's murder. Nova was killed on the night of her coronation as homecoming queen. She was the first queen of color at her high school, and her best friend Duchess is determined to find out what happened. Tinsley is is the epitome of white privilege, she uses her wealth, beauty, and status to bully and manipulate those around her. She comes from a long line of previous homecoming queens, and this was supposed to be her year. She is not happy to have competition, and she is not happy when Nova is announced as this year's selection. When a video surfaces of Tinsley threatening Nova and saying hateful things, Tinsley quickly becomes the main suspect in the murder investigation. She finds that after the horrible way she has treated people, her fall from grace is quick and hard and everyone is pointing fingers her way.

I enjoyed this! As a lover of the mystery and thriller genre, this was well crafted and kept me engaged. I will say that I had the "twist" figured out kind of early on, however the storyline had enough red herrings to keep you reading just in case you were wrong. The story is told from the perspective of Duchess and Tinsley as they take up the mantle of the investigation. Like typical teenagers they think they think they know everything and can solve the murder before the police. I thought Emill captured the teenagers well. I did feel that some of their actions were a bit silly as they overstepped the actual police investigation, but I think the author was trying to make a point about how ridiculous racial bias is when it comes to real life investigations and racial profiling by law makers. There are quite a few stereotypes represented, and I felt the author used them to make a point about issues with diversity, systemic racisms, and the other social justice issues represented in the book.

This covers alot of uncomfortable subject matter so be sure to check trigger warnings before diving in. This is a YA mystery/thriller, and I think it would be appropriate for a mature young reader who is able to understand the complex and uncomfortable topics presented. As Duchess and Tinsley try to solve the case, Tinsley has to take a good look at herself and her privilege and she doesn't like what she sees. As she received treatment that is the norm for Duchess and her friends, Tinsley tries to justify her actions and doesn't appreciate being treated as anything other than a princess. I do feel as if Tinsley and her story took up too much space in this book, and I actually wanted more of Duchess' perspective and I wanted to get to know Nova. I didn't want Tinsley to be redeemed for her years of being a terrible person. I do think there were great conversations about how to become a better person and become an ally, but those things don't happen overnight or without work.

If you are looking for a good YA thriller that also touches on social issues, give this a read.

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This was an excellent young adult mystery thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery side of it, and though I found myself correctly guessing some of the twists early on, the conclusion still got me!

Nova Albright is the first Black homecoming queen at her high school, Lovett High... but before she can properly claim her crown, she is horrifically murdered. Meanwhile, Tinsley McArthur was expected to win the crown. She is the classic popular white girl, with a legacy of homecoming queens spanning from her sister and her mother all the way to her grandmother. Soon enough, Tinsley finds herself accused of the crime. Everyone is certain of her guilt, including Nova's best friend Duchess. And Duchess will stop at nothing to discover the truth.

This book does a fantastic job of highlighting the issues of systemic racism, set on the backdrop of a high school in a highly segregated southern town. Through the use of dual perspectives, it shifts back and forth between the POVs of Duchess and Tinsley - the latter of which I was not prepared or interested in liking. The author succeeds in painting her as a deeply unlikable person, with serious racist tendencies. Duchess, meanwhile, is such a compelling heroine. And I found the interwoven storyline of Duchess struggling with her father's career as a Black cop to be deeply interesting.

I can't say too much more without edging into spoiler territory, but I will just say I was very impressed with the author's ability to demonstrate such nuanced character growth in both of the main POVs.

I will most definitely be picking up a copy of this book for our library collection!

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I received this book as an ARC but waited too long to read it. Until after it was published, actually! Halfway through the novel, I logged on to Amazon and ordered a hardcover copy for myself. I knew that I would want to re-read the book and share it with friends. The Black Queen is supposedly a thriller about the murder of an African American teenager, but I think it is more of a racial commentary. I loved how the author was able to weave information about systemic racism and media bias into a YA thriller novel, while not coming off as awkward or preachy. What a fantastic book.

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A quick read for your reluctant readers. A dark mystery with a dead homecoming queen and the story unravels as the pages turn. Plot twists abound and great for young adults like like to read mysteries.

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i really ended up enjoying this a lot. i would say say that i have and many other have gotten tired of reading black trauma books and this is another. but i think this was different. i like the two point of views a lot even tho the white character we follow was not great and very racist it kinda sucked that the author made us spent a lot of time with her us when there was another black girl we could’ve have gotten a pov instead of him trying to make us feel bad for the white girl. i ended up liking the ending a lot the twist was done very nicely.

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If you’re in this book for the mystery you might be disappointed. I guess the whole “who done it” aspect very early on as well as a couple other aspects. However I will say the commentary on racism and social justice from a YA perspective was really good. And I did enjoy watching on the relationship between the two main characters evolve and develop over time.

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This was a perfectly fine YA mystery, but there are plenty of books out there that do the same thing better. I thought it was pretty heavy handed with a lot of the issues it dealt with (police brutality, systemic racism, etc.) in a way that felt kind of pander-y to white people?

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this book may be hard to read for some, it does future a lot of heavy racism, it follows 2 teens (one being white and our antagonist, and one being black and our protagonist). i think this is an important book for many to read, and was great in the mystery element, though predictable

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I had high hopes for this book but unfortunately I did not connect with it. I found the ending to be extreme, overstretched and predictable. I felt the premise was exciting and unique and appreciate what the author attempted to do but it just missed the mark for me. 3.5 stars rounded down to a 3.

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***Thank you, Delacorte Press and NetGalley, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review.***

I want to preface this review with a critique of something that made me uncomfortable - something that I anticipate will be a dealbreaker for some.

The plot of this story unfolds from an act of physical violence made upon the body of a young Black woman in the racist and segregated Southern town of Lovett: Nova Albright, Lovett High’s first Black homecoming queen, is murdered on the night of her coronation. Reading the book’s description, I expected that Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend and the daughter of Lovett’s first Black police chief, would be our guide from there, taking us with her as she investigates Nova’s murder, as she wrestles with the hard facts she uncovers, as she navigates the racial trauma of her community, and as she demands justice for her friend. I wasn’t at all expecting the dual-perspective that Duchess shares with Tinsley McArthur, Nova’s rich, White rival and suspected killer. I wasn’t at all expecting to follow Tinsley as she, too, investigates Nova’s murder, desperate to clear her name. I wasn’t expecting Tinsley’s perspective and developmental arc to ultimately eclipse Duchess’s… and that, of course, is where my discomfort originates. I felt led to believe that this book would center Black power and agency; instead, it centers Whiteness - White guilt and the transition of White ignorance to White “wokeness” - upon a backdrop of Black pain and trauma.

That said, I did finish this book. I found it to be quite thrilling and well-written. The mystery kept me guessing all the way through and delivered a fairly satisfying ending… However, as I say that, I can’t help but wonder if I only think so because I see aspects of my own racial awakening - as a highly privileged White woman - in Tinsley’s. Would Black readers find the ending equally as satisfying? I tend to think not, and that sits poorly with me.

I think, ultimately, that this book was written for White readers - that it aims to awaken them to their privilege with some deeply nuanced and thought-provoking content. I think it does that successfully, but at an unacceptable cost: When I finished this book, my initial thought was, “Black people shouldn’t have to die for White people to change.”

To be honest, I’m still processing this one. I liked it… and I didn’t. Despite everything, I think Jumata Emill has a lot of talent and a lot of potential. I’ll definitely give his writing another shot, and I look forward to doing so.

3/5 Stars

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First, a thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

This was a DNF at 10% for me. I just... couldn't. Absolutely could not.

Late last year I read The Weight of Blood which was stellar, phenomenal, cut me to my heart, and left me wanting more. An absolutely wonderful book.

I've seen some people compare this book to that one, and honestly, there is nothing similar in my mind other than the glaring: highschoolers, focusing in on teen girls, racism.

One of the things I appreciated the most about Jackson's characters in The Weight of Blood was how absolutely REAL they felt, how genuine, and how even the "bad guys" I could find myself having some sliver of sympathy for.

In this book? None. None whatsoever.

I think the biggest offense, in my mind, was all these girls came off as caricatures of teen girls. Like someone saying to themselves "oh yeah, totally, this is EXACTLY what ACTUAL teens sound like, I'm so highly relatable right now" - so then I looked again, and oh, surprise surprise, the author is a dude.

It's a no from me folks. I get that there is some amount of teen behavior I look at now as an adult and I'm like wow that was annoying or over the top, but this is like... too much for me. It feels very unfair to actual teens who, you know, have actual feelings and whatnot.

A big swing and a miss, but that's why I'm stopping now and not even bothering to go more than 10%. I read bookishrealm's review and thought yep, I trust that, I'm good enough stopping here, thanks.

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The Black Queen is a school murder mystery with something to say. Told between two character's POV as they try to decide who killed the new queen, the story keeps you hooked in from start to finish. I had a great time with this book and look forward to what Jumata Emill does next.

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this was a really fun impressive own-voices YA mystery. It was a little heavy handed with the racism stuff, but overall enjoyed

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The Black Queen is a book that you need to have on your radar. Emil takes the classic small town mystery setup and ramps up the tension and atmosphere to the max.

This is a tightly plotted, well constructed mystery with so many twists, turns and layers. I raced through the pages, letting the story unfold around me. Emil dials up the claustrophobia and paranoia to eleven. You constantly feel on edge and the tension is unimaginable. The accompanying characterisation gives the story emotional hooks to really pull you in. Nova is a character that stays with you and her spirit burns bright. Her story is heart-breaking and all too real. Duchess is a passionate, smart and fiercely loyal friend that I related to so strongly. Her experiences of grief and helplessness are so nuanced and realistic, allowing for emotional vulnerability. Her quick thinking really brings the story together, and she also brings Nova’s story to life. Tinsley was another complex character, with a growth story arc that felt naturally paced and did not completely give her redemption.

The book also acts as a vehicle to explore institutional racism, privilege and the exploitation of power to keep the status quo. The power structures of race and privilege are on full display, particularly through policing and crime. There is a lot of discussion around police brutality in an unfolding case that forms a backdrop to the story, as well as discussion around the idea of the ‘perfect victim’. The stereotypes and vile racism on display are picked apart and the history surrounding these painstakingly laid out.

The Black Queen is a twisty, highly engaging thriller that delves into social commentary and racial injustice.

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From my blog post, first paragraph about this book: Before I ever saw a synopsis for this book (which admittedly, I’m a chronic non-reader of anyway), I saw the cover and was immediately drawn in. I got those bookish tingles that just let me know that I would really be into this story. The story is from 2 perspectives; Duchess, the best friend of the Black Queen and Tinsley, who is aiming to prove her innocence. When I tell you you couldn’t have more different perspectives, you really couldn’t, which made the draw to this book even stronger. I mean, there was a hallway moment where you could almost hear folx chanting “FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT” (the ones that know, know).

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an informative commentary about racism, the harmful effects of performative activism, and white privilege.

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Yes just yes, Horror thriller mixed with beaitufil social and racial commentary. This book is something truly special. Thank you random house.

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Nova has just been crowned homecoming queen, the first ever Black queen at Lovett High. Her best friend Duchess is convinced that Tinsley, the white shoe-in for homecoming queen, killed Nova. But the closer Duchess gets to the truth the more messy secrets are revealed.

I thought this was a diverse read what with Nova on the cover and Duchess starting off the story. However, Tinsley soon became the focal point of this story and I feel like it was a bit misleading. Even now that I'm thinking about it, I'm confused as to what this story is supposed to be. Is it a parable about crimes against Blacks going unnoticed? Is it a story about the re-education of a white girl in the south?

I wanted to like this book, but I feel like those in search of a diverse read should look elsewhere. If they come here, they'll undoubtedly be disappointed.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for this ARC.

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I had been waiting for this book for a LONG time, so I was thrilled that I got an advance copy and didn’t have to wait on my library’s hold list!

The Black Queen absolutely lived up to my expectations. While I kind of figured out the killer really early on, the story still had me on the edge of my seat! Nova slightly reminded me of Laura Palmer from Twin Peaks (murdered homecoming Queen who was full of secrets), and I wish we got to see more of her in life before she died. I would absolutely read a book about Nova’s life because I wanted to know more about her, her life in Virginia, how she became friends with Duchess, etc. All of the characters felt very real and fleshed out as well, and the handling of difficult topics was both sensitive and honest at every turn. I can’t wait to read whatever Jumata Emill writes next.

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