Cover Image: The Black Queen

The Black Queen

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Member Reviews

👀 enjoy a good mystery
📖 love YA novels
👥 like dual POVs
👍🏻 are looking for diverse representation


After Nova Albright is killed after being pronounced Homecoming Queen at her coronation, two unlikely girls will team up together to find her killer.


Tinsley and Duchess are two girls you would never expect to find together. Tinsley, the popular and rich white girl, and Duchess, a Black queer girl, used to be best friends, but that was a long time ago. Now Duchess is best friend’s with Nova, the new girl. Nova is a shoe-in for Homecoming Queen, leaving Tinsley angry and casting threats. So when Nova turns up dead after a video circulates over TikTok with Tinsley threatening to kill Nova, all eyes are on her. Claiming innocence, Tinsley and Duchess end up working together to discover who really killed Nova and why.


This was such an amazing read, in so many ways. I loved the inclusiveness of the story. It has so many diverse characters, backgrounds, and storylines. Jumata does an incredible job of writing two very different personalities! Each girl seemed very real with their unique voices echoing off the pages! While I did guess the killer, it was because I was able to pick up on a lot of hints and clues Jumata left for us throughout the story! He wrote a fantastic novel, and I really hope to see Duchess and Tinsley team up together again in the future!

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I’m still not really sure how I feel about this one. It has all the key characteristics of a good mystery. It’s an easy read and engaging, although it was easy to figure out who the MAIN villain was early on; this story had plenty. Overall it wasn’t a bad story, but there were a few things that made it hard to digest. In 2023 I’m really over generic stereotypes. The story is told in dual POVs and of course the black kids are speaking in outdated AAVE and the white kids are using standard English. There was no real character growth. Tinsley is still a spoiled rich kid who gets whatever she wants and Duchess is the queer black girl looking for acceptance.
Oh… and the fact that a black girl had to die in order for a rich, white chick to finally open a book and learn the meaning of ‘white savior complex’….really upsets me. This is YA and maybe I read too much into it, but…this could have been a lot better.

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This book was a thought-provoking story with heavy topics mixed with thriller/killer queen trope vibes. It was interesting and captivating…so much so that I finished it in one sitting. I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of race, racial divides, discrimination of race AND class while also providing a murder mystery begging to be solved.

“Don’t paint me as some bigoted, tiki-torch-carrying, let’s-whitewash-history, right-wing conservative because I voiced
concerns about the racial quotas this school has implemented"

This is just the tip of the iceberg that sets this plot in motion. There is tension and an obvious divide between the two groups of friends (with one being black & the other predominantly white).

"That girl wasn’t afraid to go up against the devil himself for something she wanted.”

Nova was strong-willed and always ready to fight for what was fair & what was right. Even if that meant going up against the town's HBIC and her posse of barbies.

“You don’t get to cast yourself like some victim when you still have the freedom to walk around and clear your name".

There is still a lot of injustice in our country today. Where people are put into a negative light and blamed for crimes just because their skin is a different color. Innocent people are being punished for crimes they didn't commit while others get away with murder.

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~Thanks to Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Black Queen in exchange for an honest review. ~

Oh my oh man, this book definitely felt like I was reading from teenagers’ perspectives, at least in the beginning, and while that’s a positive thing, the use of slang and AAVE both makes me feel old and also will date the book in the future. However, I do love the way this starts with petty teenage drama and juicy gossip, though things very quickly evolve into much more serious territory. Though, as the book progressed, the writing style did start to draw away from that, apart from the dialogue. Certain terms were used that I wouldn’t have ever utilized as a teenager myself, outside of maybe an admission essay.

I like Duchess, she’s not always likable, but she’s authentic and determined to do right by her best friend, though she’s struggling with her father’s role as a police officer. Definitely think this has brought up some very thought-provoking discussions of issues black police officers have to face from both their coworkers and their community and some of what they’re up against when trying to enact change from within the system. I was hoping we’d get more of these discussions as the book progressed. However, after an initial argument over it, Duchess and her father do everything possible to avoid each other, making these topics feel a little like a missed opportunity.

Tinsley is the absolute worst, even if she’s not a murderer, and after seeing her family situation, it’s not particularly surprising. On one hand, her actions seem to fit with that of a desperate teenager, but on the other side, it makes it pretty hard to root for her when she’s making questionable decisions and throwing her all into every new theory.

She puts her foot in her mouth constantly, which is so cringy to watch, only for the other characters around her, often the characters who are black, to teach her why what she said is ignorant, racist, or just plain dumb. A lot of the time, that’s Duchess, and it feels like too often the story is revolving around educating Tinsley instead of the actual mystery, which you’d think would be Duchess’ focus. It’s doubly awkward when there are other nuanced issues regarding race in the book (or opportunities for them). In the end, I wasn’t really convinced by her redemption arc and the fact that it only came about because of Nova’s death leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

We also learned more about the layers of Nova’s death from Tinsley’s perspective than we did in Duchess’ which is odd to me, since Duchess was her best friend and the person interested in being a detective. By the end of the book, it was really obvious that perspective chapters favored Tinsley, which did detract from my enjoyment since I never liked her near as much as Duchess.

This does read really fast, but when we start uncovering clues, many of the bread crumbs aren’t subtle, more like whole slices of bread. I called every reveal that took place, including the ending. Granted, some of those reveals were quite darker than I was initially expecting with this book, but that didn’t change the fact that this was a pretty predictable mystery and with the main detective being hard to route for, the whole plot was a letdown.

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The Black Queen is a young adult who done it novel that deals with themes of affirmative action; racism; privilege; and social justice and injustice. The main characters join together to solve the mystery of who killed the Black Queen. It has a surprising end. The main characters grow and develop through the process.

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Nova is nominated as Lovett High's first Black homecoming queen. However, the popular white girl, Tinsley, has a problem with that. Tinsley comes from a family of Lovett High homecoming queens and feels her family's legacy is at stake. When Nova wins the title of homecoming queen, Tinsley is a little more than upset. On the night of Nova's coronation, a video of a very drunk Tinsley is released to social media saying she wants to murder Nova and dump her body in the slave cemetery where Nova does volunteer work. The next morning, Nova's body is found in the same slave cemetery that Tinsley claimed she wanted to dump her body in. Tinsley is the prime suspect for the crime and Nova's best friend, Duchess is determined to see Tinsley pay for her crime. The more Duchess digs into the murder of her best friend, the more she sees she may need to team up with Tinsley to get all the answers she needs.

This book is told in dual POV between Duchess and Tinsley. Duchess is Nova's best friend who is looking for justice and Tinsley is wrongfully accused of Nova's murder looking to clear her name. I thought it was interesting that between the two POVs / main characters we have in this book, Tinsley was the predominant one. I was expecting to read a lot more from Duchess' POV.

Yall....there's a lot going on in this book. A LOT. There's like 50 different small plot lines that start but never really get followed up on. The main plot line of solving the murder of Nova gets lost in side plots of extortion, illegal construction businesses, student-teacher relationships and random affairs that side characters of side characters are having. It was hard to stay focused on the main plot strictly because of how much was going on in the side lines.

This seems like the kind of book that has stuff thrown into it just to have shock value or give it that thriller/mystery feel but you can see what's coming with each "twist". And there are quite a lot of those "twists" put in here. Some of the general decisions about the characters were a little confusing to me. Duchess early on talks about her girlfriend and her being gay does have a little bit to do with her tense relationship with Tinsley and their family but Duchess having a girlfriend is almost barely relevant?

There are some interesting sub plots and commentary that's being said in this book. Specifically about the justice system and systemic racism which I wish was explored a little bit deeper instead of the backstory we get for, an example, Tinsley's dad's high school ex girlfriend. Towards the end when Tinsley starts to educate herself and grow and understand her privilege and how she's acted racist felt a little too cliché? I'm not sure if that's the right word. At the end, she tells his father he has a white savior complex and says she read it in a book the night before that her sister gave her about systemic racism. It just doesn't feel quite genuine to me?

Unfortunately, for me, it definitely just felt like there was too much being jammed into this story that it didn't really work. I started to get pretty frustrated at some points with the whole teen detective story line but I think that may be just me being too old. I think older teens would enjoy this book. It's relatively fast pace and the writing itself is pretty digestible. The topics and conversations are good to expose 16-18 year old's to. In conclusion, I won't be buying this or re reading it any time soon but I may recommend this to a younger reader.

Thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children's / Delacorte Press for providing a digital ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions here are my own.

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I instantly knew who the killers were, and the writing and storytelling in this book did not make me care enough to learn all the whys and hows.

The fact Tinsley, the prime suspect of Nova's murder, gets more chapters in her pov than Duchess, the best friend, is mind boggling to me. Tinsley's chapters were so agonizing, because every white person, including her, are caricatures of racists, cartoon characters rather than authentic portrayals (The teens also all spunded like what adults think teens sound like, and it's so bad I wanted to fold in on myself(. It felt like this was targeted at white readers, teaching them how harmful racism is, but I doubt anyone who picks up this book would need that. It feels so insulting that the story is about a white girl learning about how racist her family is and becoming aware of her privilege rather than the Black girl who was unjustly murdered.

The mystery itself was so lackluster and, as I mentioned at the beginning, very predictable. That's not necessarily bad, but paired up with the fact Emill played it so safely by picking the safest plot twists just makes this such wasted potential. I'm just so disappointed because the cover and synopsis really drew me in, and even the LGBTQ+ aspect couldn't save this.

Overall, the writing, mystery, and focus on the wrong character really didn't do it for me. I hope someone can find enjoyment in this where I couldn't.

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(ARC from NetGalley) Ok first I have to say, I don’t think this was meant for me and I had to DNF. It felt like how you’d explain racism to someone who’s never heard of it— very CW original, Riverdalefication of racism.
Each character felt like what an adult thinks teens sound like. Also, SOMEHOW a story about a Black girl being murdered ended up being about a white girl learning about her privilege.

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I enjoyed this book, I mean reading it in one day pretty much proves that. It was thought provoking and easy to read. A lot of the best qualities in a YA book.
The characters acted and reacted like you would expect teenagers to. Especially in the beginning, when you have all three leading ladies involved.

Although I felt like Tinsley’s character overshadowed Duchess’s, especially since I thought this book was mainly about her finding the truth about her BFF’s murder, it didn’t completely take away from the enjoyment.
The clues and misdirection were fun and kept me wanting more. Although I guessed pretty early on who the killer was, I didn’t expect things to go down like they did. I think that was really the WOW factor. Not who the killer was. But why and what actually happened. There are a lot of working parts that I felt all wrapped up nicely in the end. Overall it was a solid YA mystery!

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Two former best friends - Duchess and Tilly -team up - to solve the murder Duchess’ current best friend - the high schools’s first black homecoming queen ; which Tilly is accused of committing

A great debut YA mystery from the author , that deals with racism, inherent bias and many other important topics, and although somewhat predicable - a great villain. I’d definitely read more from this author and about these two young women

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Nova Albright was the first Black homecoming queen at her high school, but now she’s been murdered on coronation night. It’s now up to her best friend, Duchess, and the girl who has been accused of her murder, Tinsley, to find out who really killed her.

I have very mixed feelings about this novel. On one hand, I loved the mystery aspect. I haven’t been interested in a mystery this much in a long time. The mystery was engaging with a satisfying reveal and conclusion. In the few chapters before she died, I got to know Nova and really liked her, so her death was hard for me as a reader. But that added to the mystery aspect because I HAD to know who killed her and why!

On the other hand, we have to stop centering, and in this case victimizing, white people in our works! This book was dual POV. One of the POV’s was from Nova’s bestfriend Duchess who wanted justice for her. And the other POV was from the prime suspect in the murder investigation, Tinsley, who only wanted to find the real killer to keep herself from going to jail. And Tinsley was a racist, which is not a POV I want to read from. I feel like the author’s intent was to show that Tinsley was a product of her environment, she comes from racist parents, but that she tries to be better. (Her “better” is still racist by the way) Which, okay I guess I can try to understand why someone might want to write a character like that, but, why was she the MAIN character?? We got more POV chapters from her than we did from Duchess. I think the point of her being so important was to A. Get us to empathize with those raised in racist households, and B. Teach white people about racism. That doesn’t mean that this book shouldn’t be written, but it wasn’t for me, a Black woman who is not trying to hear all that. I assumed Black people would be centered in this story and not just used as a plot point to get white people to understand the error of their ways.

One other thing that bothered me is that when the author, who is Black, wrote the dialogue of the white characters, he had them talking like they were Black. Not talking in AAVE particularly, because that would’ve been very insulting, but just saying terms that only we say. I don’t think it was purposeful, I think it was just the way he probably talks coming through in writing dialogue for them. It’s not a huge deal, but it did give me pause lol.

I loved the mystery aspect of this book, but the centering of a racist really dampened my enjoyment. Also, this story can be very triggering, so check my trigger warnings below.

Thank you to Random House Children’s and NetGalley for this arc. All opinions are my own.

TW: racism, micro aggressions, child molestation & rape mentioned, Covid & cancer related deaths in the family, adult/minor relationship, infidelity

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The Black Queen is nuanced. On the surface, the synopsis screams murder and thrills. And while that is undeniably a huge element and one that seriously had me staying up past my bedtime. But it's also a book that is rooted in characters. In the tragedy of Nova's death, but also the factors, secrets, racism, and history that lead up to it. Or in Duchess' desires to find her best friend's killer while also coming to terms with her dad's position as a black policeman. And even Tinsley whose twist of fortune could lead her on a journey which might cause her to examine her own life more closely.

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(3.5 rounded up). I think this book is an example of excellent writing and plot, but it wasn't my favorite. Our title "Black Queen" is not who this book is really about, but more of a who-dun-it tag team of a friend of the deceased and their worst enemy.

I loved the mystery elements. I thought the plot had great pacing, was well-layered, and the MCs each have complex full lives. I think if you are interested in this book it is definitely worth your time to read.

However, where this book fell flat for me is the centering of a wealthy white girl in the story of the death of a black girl. I understand why the two MCs work together, but it feels like the "plot twists" and the active choices are all related to the white MC rather than both characters having a balanced presence. That is not to say that I didn't like the book, but it wasn't the story I was looking for.

Disclaimer: I received a gifted finished copy.

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- THE BLACK QUEEN is a YA thriller that digs in deep to issues of race and class. I think fans of Tiffany D. Jackson will want to check this one out.
- At first I was unsure of the dual POV, switching back and forth between Duchess and Tinsley, because it felt so strange to get the perspective of the white person who was doing the harm. However, the more I think about it, the more important I think that might be to include in a YA novel, to allow kids to either see themselves in Tinsley and learn from it or see their classmates and have their feelings validated.
- Not only does THE BLACK QUEEN have real, messy characters, but it has twist after twist. You won't be able to put it down.

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Unfortunately, this book just didn't work for me. The synopsis drew me in and made me think it was going to be closer to a mix of like Ace of Spades and maybe a darker You Should See Me in A Crown. Alas, that's not quite what we got here. I think the basis of the plot was very interesting, but the execution was a little lackluster. The story is really go go go from start to finish. It made it really difficult to see any real depth in the characters and their emotions and motivations. I think this story may have done better with either removing Tinsley's POV or making Duchess' POV more prominent. I truly didn't feel bad for Tinsley, who is way too old to pretend that she doesn't know racism exists and that she and her family perpetuate it heavily. That was one of my main issues with this book: the focus was really on Tinsley and her coming to 'understand' racism and how she can change her ways after being, in her words, falsely accused of killing Nova. These teen characters felt like what a random adult without teenage children think teenagers sound like. The dialogue at times felt forced. The character work was lacking a bit. I was told a great many things about the characters and how they feel, but I wasn't shown their characters, if that makes sense. The reader is told how the characters are feeling, however, the actual emotional depth wasn't there. Nova is kind of a character even though she is dead within a few chapters. But when the book gives us her backstory, it is just bad thing happened to her after bad thing happened to her, which was just kind of sad. She was such a bold and interesting character while she was alive. To go back to Tinsley for a second, I feel like she is... not necessarily forgiven too quickly because there's not really an active statement of 'I forgive you for [insert a racist something here]' but more that there's a more tacit acceptance of her again after what comes out about her, especially from Duchess and Duchess' friends. It felt weird to me. The mystery of who killed Nova was obvious and the red herrings didn't feel overly believable to me. I actually at one point thought there was maybe a continuity error in the text rather than it being a clue to throw the reader off the scent. After I read the author bio at the end, the way the story is written made more sense. The author has been a crime reporter for years. This story feels like a reporting of an event after the fact, which makes the lack of character development and personality make a bit more sense to me. This story is just a snapshot of an event rather than an in-depth exploration of the complicated issues that are touched on but not fully fleshed out.

I, unfortunately, did not like this book all that much, but I hope that it is able to find its audience.
Content/Trigger Warnings: mentions of child abuse, murder, racism, classism, student/teacher romance between side characters. That's what I can remember. There could be more things.

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**3.5 STARS**

Content Warning: racism, mention of child sexual abuse, violence, inappropriate relationship between student/teacher

I thought the synopsis for this book was very intriguing and I was in the mood for a murder mystery so this was great. This is what I thought:

+ I like the dual perspective of this story. There is Duchess who is Nova’s best friend and who gives us a lot of insight into her after Nova is murdered. On the other end is Tinsley, who is the popular girl vying for Homecoming Queen against Nova. There is animosity between Nova and Tinsley before Nova is murdered and Tinsley is the number one suspect.

+ Duchess has an interesting history with Tinsley but I like how they work together to figure out who really killed Nova. They aren’t exactly friends but I like that they both come to an understanding. Now Duchess and Nova are best friends and we see that in the beginning – but did Duchess really know Nova’s secrets? I found it interesting how the investigation into Nova’s death exposes some things about their friendship that Duchess has to face.

+ There are some heavy themes throughout the story such as child sexual abuse, family secrets, the undercurrents of racism happening with another murder case happening in town, but I thought it was interesting how it was woven into the story. Tinsley is white, privileged and said hateful things about Nova to Nova’s face and to others making her suspect number one. But I did like that she eventually open her eyes to some things, and wants to make an effort to change.

+ I let this story take me for a ride. I had lots of suspicions and of course one of them is the killer, but I think the story got better and better the more each secret was revealed. There are a lot of clues throughout the story, but I still like how we get to examine all the different suspects.

~ Tinsley is an unlikable character but she’s also interesting. She’s basically trying to clear her name but then finds out some secrets and has to figure out what it means for her. If you think she’s going to change much – you’ll be disappointed. But I also think it’s realistic and at least she brings up wanting to learn by the end. She was not going to change overnight.

Why you should read it:
*you like murder mysteries
*it’s dark and twisty and touches on racial issues in a southern town

Why you might not want to read it:
*might be a bit predictable – but I thought it was fun examining all the suspects
*Tinsley is not very likable

My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this one especially in the second half of the book where there are twists in the story. I think the characters were done well, especially Tinsley (who is very unlikable) and Duchess, and how despite their differences they both help one another to help solve Nova’s murder. I like that there were a lot of suspicious characters in this story and it had a dramatic ending. I definitely want to read more from this debut author!

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This was giving Carrie and Weight in Blood vibes, so maybe I wasn't in the right frame of mind when I started reading this book. The book was predictable and could've been broken up into different stories, if the author wanted to do so. I'm kind of iffy on if I would recommend to others to read. Maybe if they haven't read Tiffany Jackson's Weight of Blood? idk

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It didn’t take much for me to be basically salivating for this book. The cover alone had me wanting to read it immediately. I waited as long as I could, but once I got it, I had to read it. And I’m so glad I went around my schedule and read it. I couldn’t help myself.

First things first, I LOVED that this was done in dual POV. There would have been no way to really get into the drama of it all. And the way they teamed up all for the love of Nova. I loved that because it was handled so real life like. Duchess couldn’t stand Tinsley ass, but she made it clear she was helping her because of Nova. And as a Black woman, I understood that completely. I’m not trying to clear your name at all, but you have the means to help me figure out what might have happened to my friend. I wouldn’t even say we teamed up. And let me just say, Tinsley ass deserved it. I say that because I don’t think she would have learned as much as she did throughout the rest of the story if she hadn’t gone through the things she did. There’s no way she would have gotten it or appreciated it as much. But she wasn’t alone. Duchess learned a lot as well. She realized that the bare minimum isn’t enough and they shouldn’t stand for it.

This novel had so much growth in it. All the teens, all the adults, life was handing out lessons to everyone in this book. Including the victim. Which brings me to my next thing. All the characters in this were well fleshed out. They had to be because they were all interrogated throughout the entire book. Every time someone was introduced, they were shortly after interrogated or at the very least asked where they were at the time. Which made 100% sense because it was in a thriller.

The way the clues were dropped was crazy. It’s funny now, but I remember thinking back after I finished this book and thought about all the clues that should have told me whodunit while I was reading. But it was done so well, that even me, a seasoned thriller reader didn’t catch who did it, I only caught the why. And that was from a super small thing in the story. Gotta make sure you’re paying attention if you want to guess this one!

I DID think the way the police presence was handled in this one was not the greatest tho. It just wasn’t believable. At first where she sneaks in the office, yeah I get it. But the way she got the info at the end, naw. There’s no way she could’ve let that happen. I understand that was her dad, but still. I just didn’t see that happening.

And yes, a part of this book’s plot is social justice. Nova is the first Black Queen, but there’s also talk of a case that was happening where they are that sounds a lot like the Ahmaud Arbery case. This case doesn’t seem like it would be a prominent part of the story, but its used to help teach Tinsley a large part of her internal bias.

Lastly, the author is a journalist. I thought it was obvious because of the way he started spouting the facts for everything. It was like he was at the protests and the way he was telling what happened during them and what was happening during the case, etc. But even still, it didn’t make it seem like it was written with the news in mind of anything. I know I didn’t explain that right. He was very knowledgeable about the subject, but him explaining it didn’t seem like he was flaunting it.

This was one of my most anticipated book of 2023. I knew I was going to read this immediately. I’m just glad that it was everything I wanted and more. The cover, the book, just everything was really, really good and I really hope to see more from this debut author in the future!

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I honestly went into this thinking it would be a hit or miss. Sadly for me it was a miss. The AAVE felt really forced and not natural making me dislike it. The story started with potential and then slowly started going downhill.

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1.5 stars. Very disappointing read. Synopsis is misleading. Who was this book written for? Every since ACE OF SPADES, it's like every book written by a person of color has to contain racism, pain, and unhappiness. I can take a heavy subject matter, just be honest, so i can mentally prepare myself. I ask agin, for who was this book written for? I am so sick and tired of Black torture porn. After finishing, I feel nothing but angry and sadness. And that ending? We're still tiptoeing and catering around to make certain ppl feel okay and I'm sick of it.

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