Cover Image: The Black Queen

The Black Queen

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This book does a lot of things well: exposing systemic racism in education, highlighting insidious racism in the South, starting conversations for young adults about race and micro and macro aggressions. But, the fact that it does all of that against the backdrop of an outlandish murder mystery makes it feel a bit cheap. I hope I’m wrong and the setting instead makes it more palatable and accessible to young readers.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for my free copy. These opinions are my own.

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Scheduled to post 1/24/23.

Could NOT put this down. THE BLACK QUEEN is so twisty and turny, I was second guessing myself the entire time. I had the killers pegged from the beginning, but Emill kept throwing these diversions at me I was constantly thinking, "well, maybe not." He set so many characters up so well to be suspects that even if you think you know, you'll be guessing until the very end.

I like how Emill didn't use a killer prologue here. I think it could have fit, but Nova isn't fodder for a story. She's a real person who Emill makes you love real quick before ripping her away. I liked that conscious choice to not make her a tool for other characters' growth right from the get-go.

I also liked how Duchess and Tinsley started the story on these binaries, fitting into these very specific molds, and watching them get broken down over the course of the story. I think Tinsley was a little more self aware about the mold she was in than Duchess, just because Duchess suffered some truths about herself that really rocked her world and put her more in alignment with Tinsley than she ever wanted to be.

Tinsley came off a little wish fulfillment in her character arc, but I don't fault Emill for having that kind of ideal for people to see the error of their ways. And for how wish fulfillment Tinsley played out to me, I think her situation was completely realistic. A lot of people just will not change course unless they're facing down something catastrophic, like a murder charge, that puts them in the shoes of the very people they've been complaining about in the first place. It's actually kind of sad that people need to be in these kinds of positions in order to change, and you can only hope it changes them. Sometimes it doesn't change anything, and it forces people to double down, which we also see in this story.

I loved Duchess's reluctance to give Tinsley the benefit of the doubt. Especially with Ev in her ear, I don't fault her for her reluctance, but I'm glad she listens to her gut, even if that means going against the grain everyone expects her to travel on. I also love her grudging acceptance that maybe Tinsley is a product of her environment too. Add in the rather awkward situation of Duchess's dad being one of the lead cops on Nova's case and that adds a whole other level of complicated to Duchess's world view.

It's just one thing after another in this story. If you're bored reading THE BLACK QUEEN, we didn't read the same book. It holds a mirror up to society while giving you this twisty, turny story that you desperately want to solve and will not rest until you do. Every single character will suck you into their story and make you question whether they are what they say they are, regardless of how long they're actually on the page. And the number of subplots on top of it all. SUPERB. I can't say enough good things about it.


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Nova Albright is the first Black homecoming queen that Lovett High has ever had, and white Tinsley McArthur is furious about it, because she thought she should be wearing the crown. So, when Nova is murdered on the night of her coronation and an incendiary video of Tinsley ranting about Nova is posted, it all seems cut and dried. But as this is a YA mystery, and a pretty decent one at that, it clearly isn’t that straightforward.

Narrated by Tinsley and by Nova’s best friend, Duchess, over the course of the days between the announcement of the homecoming queen and the homecoming dance, this is something of a whirlwind of red herrings, suspects found and dismissed, and secrets uncovered. The resolution is not entirely unexpected but it comes with a nifty twist or two, and satisfyingly fits the narrative of entitled white privilege and disadvantaged Black fighting back.

I found Tinsley’s character a little hard to get a handle on. She starts as a stereotyped racist princess - a character trope that I think authors need to get a little more imaginative with - and metamorphoses to Black ally in just a few double-taking days, but, I’m sure the author would argue, that’s what being arrested for murder can do to your self-perception. The portrait of her family feels more than a little caricatured small Southern town big cheeses, and is offered as the explanation for Tinsley being the way she is to start with, Duchess also undergoes a pretty significant transformation, from being vehemently Us and Them to having a more nuanced view of white people.

We do get a little didacticism about 21st century race relations, underlined by the arrest of a Black man in a neighboring town for the murder of a white family despite there being little evidence, and by Duchess's dad’s position as the only Black officer in the town’s police department.

With Tinsley and Duchess as an unlikely investigative duo, they manage to get one step ahead of the police on several occasions and, rather annoyingly, decide to pursue these leads themselves rather than talk to the authorities. Tinsley is motivated by trying to clear her name and Duchess by getting justice for her friend, and they uncover at least three other suspects who have the motivation to kill Nova, which seems a little excessive for a small town, as well as finding that Nova wasn’t quite the person that either of them thought she was.

Overall, I think The Black Queen will have a lot of appeal to those who enjoy YA mysteries with a side of contemporary cultural commentary.

Thanks to Delacorte and Netgalley for the digital review copy.

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2/5 stars! I wanted to like this book. The cover was beautiful, the premise was promising, and the focus on social justice and racial inequality is something we need more broadly represented in media and books. Unfortunately, a YA murder mystery needs to have a plot outside of these issues. I appreciate the author highlighting the identity concerns in being both Black and a police officer and the role that privilege plays in human interactions, but I lost so much of the main story to this. I felt like you could figure out the ending before you even reach the halfway point.

I received an advance review copy for free through NetGalley, and I am leaving this review voluntarily

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If you love Tiffany D. Jackson books then you’re definitely going to want to pick this one up. Not only does this book tackle issues of race and tie in real life events but it is also a gripping and suspenseful whodunnit mystery that will keep you turning the pages!

Jumata Emill does a great job of creating two very different narratives that allow the reader to connect to both sides of the story. The story is told from the perspectives of Duchess (the victim’s best friend and police captain’s daughter) and Tinsley (the accused murderer and most hated ‘it’ girl).

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This is absolutely promising and thought provoking thriller debut questioning too many sensitive issues including racism, underage sex, teenage pregnancy, corruption, white privileged, child abuse!

After first Black homecoming queen Nova Albright’s murder at the night of her coronation night, all eyes on Tinsley McArthur who shamelessly used her family’s money to steal the throne. She can do anything to get what she wants and she can easily get away with it including bloody murder!

The story is told by two different POVs: one of them is Duchess best friend of victim, suspecting Tinsley, pushing her police captain father to bring out the justice. But unfortunately her father is adamant to fall behind the blue line. She has to find another way to put Tinsley behind the bars!

The other POV is Tinsley: the worst kind white privileged mean girl you may wholeheartedly hate! Could she really be the one who brutally killed her opponent?

As you may guess I liked Duchess’ genuine voice and her boldness to find the killer of her best friend as I truly hate the guts of Tinsley.

The final unexpected twist was well executed.

Overall: the book was a little bit long, discussing so many red herrings at the same time. But the murder mystery is well developed and the realistic approach to the sensitive issues absolutely puts this book on my radar. It was great start!

Special thanks to NetGalley and Random House Children’s/ Delacorte Press for sharing this digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest thoughts.

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Thank you NetGalley and Delacorte Press for the advanced copy in exchange for an honest review!

Wow! Where to even begin with this debut thriller! I first want to start by saying how much I loved the different POV from Dutchess (Nova’s best friend) and Tinsley (the legacy of prom queen who is accused of killing her and is white). I feel like this definitely helped with the different perspectives of the characters and was able to really delve deep into the conversations of systematic racism and. I feel like the author did such a great job with these parts of the book and really helped the readers understand how racism can affect so many different parts of a persons life and how it can be passed down/learned from generation to generation. I feel like this was especially poignant in Tinsleys’ POV where her parents (mom especially) were very outspoken with their racism and how Tinsley’s sister especially was trying to teach herself about the racism and change her views. I feel like the character growth throughout the book was phenomenal.

Moving towards the thriller aspect of the novel, I absolutely loved the twists and turns that this story took you through. Every time that I would think that I had something figured out or had a suspect, I would be disproved. There were some parts in the middle of the book that were a bit slow, but I feel like towards the end, it definitely picked up and I didn’t want to put it down because I needed to figure out who the killer was and what was going to happen! Overall, I would highly recommend this book!

This review will be posted to my Instagram blog (read_betweenthecovers) in the near future!

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This was a slow start but it picked up pretty quickly. It was a great mystery with lots of red herrings. I didn’t see the main twist coming.

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"The Black Queen" started with so much promise, but at the halfway point I just couldn't do it anymore. It felt like a slog. I jumped ahead and skimmed through the last 50 pages (so I read 250ish of the total 400). The writer throws every issue he possibly can into this story: systemic racism, unfair incarceration of black men, black cops, segregated schools, teen pregnancy, child molestation, students sleeping with teachers, secret families, corporate corruption. I could go on. The premise of the first black homecoming queen beating the white legacy for the crown and then getting murdered on coronation night is perfection, but it gets bogged down by all those other details. The parts that discussed racism were poignant and thoughtful, and I wish the focus had stayed there. I feel like he really could have gotten two or three books out of the stories and characters crammed into this one.

For the most part, I liked the style. The dual POVs were great (one being Duchess, the murder victim's best friend, and the other being Tinsley, the white legacy accused of killing her). Their voices were distinct enough from each other. The thing that bothered me about the style was the slang/way the teenagers talked to each other. They're supposed to be current teens, but they have some slang that sounds like millennial or even gen X. It feels very "hello fellow youths" at times.

This book could have been great, but it was okay for me. I think it will be polarizing once it hits the market.

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3.5 for this debut novel. Nova was her high school's first black homecoming queen. After she is brutally murdered, two classmates form an unlikely partnership to solve the crime. Yes, it is somewhat predictable, but it combines enough page turning moments with hard racial realities making it a good teen read. In the right hands it can spark lots of discussion.

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Thanks to Netgalley and Random House Children’s for the advance Kindle copy for this book, and thanks to for the advance listening copy. It is out 1/31, and all opinions are my own.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5. This was an addicting read (listen). When the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, a community that takes their homecoming royalty VERY seriously, is found murdered, her best friend and the white girl initially accused of her murder team up to solve the case. Tinsley is a natural suspect, as she was assumed to inherit the crown as her sister and mother did before her; Duchess is the daughter of the first Black police captain in Lovett. The story is full of twists and will captivate readers in grades 9+. #highschoolreads

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Maybe I’m losing my thriller touch after seeing all the reviews about how “obvious the final twist was” and how so many “called it from the very beginning.” I did not and I about damn near rolled off my bed. Emill did a FANTASTIC job planting the seeds of suspicion on so many different people.

Jumata Emill created really visceral characters. When I say Tinsley is one of the worst characters I’ve ever read, I’m not exaggerating. And to have a huge bulk of the story from her POV? I wasn’t loving that, but I wasn’t supposed to. I do also understand the redemption arc she got, but I’m gonna be 100% honest and say she really didn’t fully deserve a redemption arc. She was an absolute racist menace throughout 80% of the book.

The Black Queen has a lot of relevant and timely social commentary and (as a white reader) it was hard to read much of it. I think, especially if you’re white, this needs to be a book you read. This book really confronts some challenging topics and lays them out in the open. Duchess’s concerns with her father being a police officer, Tinsley’s sister for occasionally saying the “right things” but stopping there, the witch hunt of the Black gardener a few towns over. I think this is an important book.

It was twisty, messy, full of drama and suspense, and just a satisfying book.

Thank you Netgalley and Delacorte Press for the ARC of this book.

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The Black Queen
by Jumata Emill
Pub Date: 31 Jan 2023
For fans of Karen M. McManus, here's your next read.
Tinsley is the town's white, rich, hateful queen bee. Nova is the beautiful new Black girl with turquoise eyes who is about to knock Tinsley off her throne. Trying to create more inclusion, the school has created a new policy that each year the Homecoming Queen candidates will switch between AP course candidates (ie. the white girls) and regular course candidates (ie. the Black girls). This year, the year Tinsley was supposed to follow in her mother and sister's footsteps by claiming the crown, will be the first year the queen has to come from the regular classes. Nova has been chosen by her peers to be the school's first ever Black Homecoming Queen.
Tinsley has the money and power that Nova's family doesn't. She tries to use her money and power to get Nova to drop from the race, because if there is no "regular courses" candidate, Tinsley would get the spot. Nova stands her ground and ultimately wins the crown. Everything is coming up Nova until she is found dead on her coronation day. Tinsley quickly becomes the lead suspect and becomes the town outcast no one will speak to. Then Duchess, Nova's best friend, believes Tinsley might actually be innocent. She and Tinsley want the same thing, to find Nova's real killer.
This young adult book is really frank about white privilege, racism, corruption, etc. and gives the reader food for thought while being an entertaining thriller. You see the issues through both Black and white eyes, but it's not preachy. #netgalley #TheBlackQueen

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Nova is all set to be the first black Homecoming queen at Lovett High School. Her competition, Tinsley, is devastated that she won't fulfill her family legacy of Homecoming queen. When someone posts Tinsley's racist rant wishing Nova dead, and Nova ends up dead that same night, everyone knows Tinsley murdered her. Or did she? Nova's best friend Duchess embarks on an investigation to find out who really killed her best friend. But secrets abound and nothing is what it seems.

This mystery is perfect for fans of Karen McManus and Ace of Spades. Good twists and turns and well developed characters make for an engaging mystery. There is a lot of overt racism in this book, especially in the beginning, that might make some readers uncomfortable. I think it's all relevant in the end and the growth of the characters is important.

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This is a really well done debut thriller novel, with all the twists and turns of a seasoned pro and the character depth of someone who really knows what they are doing. THE BLACK QUEEN is both a very well done whodunnit as well as a searing commentary on race and racism in America and how it plays out in our systems and our communities. I liked that Emill was willing and able to create two nuanced and interesting main characters, who both have to grapple with the realities of racism in direct and indirect ways. Whether it is Duchess, who is mourning her best friend's murder while knowing that race and privilege are two of the factors behind it, or Tinsley, who is privileged and, yes, racist and has to start dismantling her perceptions of herself and others in order to clear her name, Emill full on tackles complex matters with nuance and realism. And the mystery itself has some good reveals and some good set ups, and while I guessed the solution to one of the major components pretty early on, there were other reveals that did genuinely surprise me.

THE BLACK QUEEN is a well done and thoughtful mystery thriller, and I think that it will easily appeal to people outside of the YA demographic.

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Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me the opportunity to read this ARC of The Black Queen written by Jumata Emill. WOW, is all I can say! This book was very powerful and I throughly enjoyed it!
I’m not really a political girl in real life, so I was a little apprehensive about reading a book based upon the climate and life events we are currently living through. I commend the author for not shoving the politics down my throat as I was reading. I felt the way this book was written brought up many controversial topics (from different sides of the spectrum), and let me decide how I felt about the situations without swaying me one way or another.
… And talk about plot twists! I felt like they just kept coming through the whole book. I definitely thought I had the murder suspect pegged, and then BAM- there went my theory! I couldn’t put this book down and finished it within two sittings. One of my favorite things about this book was the resolve and understanding between the two main characters are the end of the story. I look forward to reading more of Emill’s books and hope that the promise Duchess and Tinsley showing up again in more of his books is kept! If you like murder mysteries with major plot twists that will keep you guessing until the end of the story- I highly recommend this book! Thank you again to NetGalley and the publisher for this opportunity!

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The Black Queen is a really interesting mix of social commentary and exciting mystery thriller. It's a combination that works well. The book puts forth commentary on a lot of important issues, like race relations, modern segregation, inequities in the criminal justice system. But it doesn't do it in a way that feels forced or heavy handed; rather, these conversations feel true to the characters and service the plot well. It offers a lot of interesting and important nuance that I liked. Best of all, it all takes place in a drama-filled, secret-filled small town murder mystery! If I'm being honest, I figured out the biggest plot twists pretty early on. It wasn't the world's most unique twist for any avid readers of mystery thrillers, but I liked seeing the way different people ended up being involved, and how everything ended up revealing itself. Definitely an enjoyable read for me.

Something I wasn't expecting going in but really liked was the dual POV. This story is told in alternating point of views from Duchess, Nova's best friend, and Tinsley, the potential murder suspect. They are on very different sides of the situation, but they both have something to prove when it comes to finding out what really happened to Nova. It's cool to see things from both perspectives, especially as I haven't read a lot of books from the perspective of a potential murderer. As a whole I think the story had a strong cast of intriguing characters with plenty of secrets to go around. It definitely fleshed out the story and was a good picture of a small town with big issues.

Overall, I think this one is definitely worth a read. Maybe not the most surprising twist for me, but not a bad one, and the story as a whole works well. Everything makes sense and it pulls you so well into the drama of it all. And a quick read to get through too!

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What a debut!! I am obsessed and so excited that my year is starting on such a good note because this book. This book. Y'all need to read it because not only does it have very important conversations and subtext about racial profiling and inequalities minorities face in everyday life it also is a damn good thriller!
The writing was gorgeous and very easy to gobble up and digest. I loved how imperfect and real all of these characters were and I admit I am glad one of these characters got a redemption arc even though I felt like punching her in the first half of the book.
I need more from these characters and I am looking forward to more from Jumata!
Thank you for the advanced copy!

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I don't know about you but I love a dark mystery. One where all the skeletons are dragged out of the closet for the world to see. Add in a little dash of sass and drama and I'm all set. The Black Queen sounded like all of those things and I knew that I had to read it.

I appreciate the story and I understand why it was written the way it was but it just wasn’t for me. With a mystery, I want to scratch my head in a puzzled way and not in a way where I know where the story will lead. I want to be shocked and flabbergasted to the where I fall out of my chair. That just didn't happen here. The author took the cop-out and I was extremely disappointed. I can really see how other readers will love this mystery because it's fresh to them and current but this really made me feel bored and a tad bit old.

The mystery itself was very predictable and I caught on very early on who killed the Queen and why they did it. None of the twists were shocking, like at all. It was obvious from the start where the author would take us and I wasn’t wrong. You would have thought the author would have a few tricks up his sleeve because he's a journalist and has covered crime before. He took the most overused scenarios and put them in his book. Shame.

The Black Queen was not the type of read that I wanted it to be and it wasn't for me. Too many stereotypes, and not enough mystery. I felt as if I was hit with a scepter and put to sleep.

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I enjoyed the many twists and turns that the author created. There was a bit of me that suspected the killer but several times throughout the story, I was convinced that it was other characters. Well done

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