Cover Image: Cool. Awkward. Black.

Cool. Awkward. Black.

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Not all voices are heard - especially not the geeks, never mind African American geeks (or nerds, is there a nice terms for geeks or nerds?).  These stories share fresh voices from many points-of-view.  Slightly geeky myself, I loved hearing about teens who are fascinated with cosplay, aliens, reading, the arts - you name it.  Written by an impressive array of authors, these stories show how awkward or marginalized young people find how to be comfortable in their own skin and/or find their people.  Growing up is not easy, and being a teen is often like floating in social limbo.  If you're not like everyone else, it's easy to get stuck in that limbo.  The important message for these young people is "you're not alone."  Another important message from these stories:   geeks ARE cool!
Was this review helpful?
Amazing collection of stories about being Black and not dealing with trauma. Black boy/girl/NB joy! Each story was impactful and important.
Was this review helpful?
Such a fantastic anthology! I loved all of these stories and I highly recommend! I really enjoyed all the difference characters and I liked how each story was still developed in terms of world/magic even if they were short!
Was this review helpful?
Cool. Awkward. Black. accomplishes what it seeks to do: challenge the concept of the Black geek. We have wizards, comicon loving kids, witches, anime kids, theater lovers: the list could go on and on. Each story had something I liked about it. There wasn't a single dud in the mix. However, there were some I liked more than others. 

Some of the stand out stories for me were:
"Initiative Check" by K. Arsenault Rivera
"Corner Booth" by Leah Johnson
"Requiem of Souls" by Terry J. Benton-Walker
"Wolf Tracks" by Roseanna A. Brown

All in all, a well rounded and profound collection.

I received this ARC from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for my honest review.
Was this review helpful?
This was the perfect way to start my year. An amazing book by amazing authors. I know it’ll be a hit.
Was this review helpful?
I'm usually not a big fan of anthologies or other story collections but this was great. The stories were just long enough for the reader to become completely enveloped but just short enough that you were never bored, sometimes left wanting even more. I picked up this collection especially to read anything more by Jordan Ifueko and Leah Johnson but I really enjoyed almost every story by every author. There's all different types of nerdy covered here, definitely a bit of something for everyone.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed this anthology celebrating authors of color. The different stories of nerds and just awkward unique own selves. 

There’s different story genres so there’s a taste of did things to keep you reading and enjoying. I love anthology’s that mix it up and keep you entertained and this book does that.
Was this review helpful?
From my instagram post: For anyone who knows me, knows I LOVE Anthologies. The different stories and voices excite me as well as the exposure to new authors. I also really love stories that show the vastness of the human experience and if they are all written by Black Authors, well, that’s the cherry AND the coconut whipped cream on top of the experience for me.

Cool.Awkward.Black edited by @karenmusings entered into the pantheon of my anthologies (pictured behind it) from the moment I cracked open this book. These stories are seriously amazing, giving us such a range in what they each brought to the table. I completely ate up this book and I think you all will too. I had not one but THREE favorite stories (actually, there could be a fourth) and I wouldn’t be ashamed to beg the authors to give us full novels (I kind of already did on twitter).
Was this review helpful?
Anthologies are always hit or miss for me when they are comprised of several authors, but I felt like this anthology was the ode to my Black, queer, nerdy heart. I related to so many of these stories and experiences. I don’t even think that I can pick a favorite because I could easily see myself in all of them. This right here is why representation matters!
Was this review helpful?
First off, I would like to say that the idea of this book was brilliant. It never occurred to me that there was such a lack of representation for Black people in areas(geeks/nerds) like this and I hope to see more books like these in the future. Overall, I did enjoy a majority of the stories. I found most of them to be very fun and often would make me laugh or smile. There were only a few stories that I wasn’t the biggest fan of. This isn’t because they were bad or poorly written. It’s because I had a hard time understanding the story itself.
Was this review helpful?
Thank you to Penguin Teen and Negalley for an eARC in exchange for an honest opinion. All opinions are my own.

This was such a lovely collection of short stories. I loved them all! Nina Evans, in the Round had me tearing up at the end, it was such a feel good story. I hope we continue to see more anthologies like this one and Reclaim the Stars: 17 Tales Across Realms & Space. I love anthologies and have gotten a fair number of queer ones so it's only time for ones by various ethnicities/races. I hope we continue to see these voices given their times and money. I hope we also see ones that have multiple marginalizations as well.

Really can't express how much I loved this collection and I will be obtaining a copy as soon as I can!

Rep: All Black MCs, a good majority are queer.

CWs: Racism, religious bigotry, misogyny, sexism.
Was this review helpful?
Thoughts and Themes: This was an anthology of eighteen stories centered around nerdy Black young adult characters. Due to this I am going to do this review a bit differently than provide you with my thoughts on the characters and writing style seperately. I am going to focus on the whole anthology then give you a brief review of my favorite stories in the book. 

I really enjoyed each of the stories that are included in this anthology and how they all were connected by the theme of our main characters being nerds. I liked that the stories all varied in genre even if most of them were sci-fi or fantasy. I liked that some of the stories included a romantic subplot for our main characters. 

One of the stories that captivated me was Roseanne A. Brown's "Wolf Tracks"  in which the men in a particular family transform into were wolves. What I really enjoyed about this story was how the transformation includes trans men and the brief explanation that is given as to how they are included. I have found most stories in which powers are assigned to a gender, the author tends to give the trans people the powers that would be given based on their sex assigned at birth or it is a battle for the person to get the powers that align with their gender identity. I not only liked this aspect but I also really liked how this story plays out and why we get to see our main character transform into this wolf and the conversation that happens with his dad as a result. 

Another short story that I really enjoyed in this anthology is Corner Booth by Leah Johnson. I loved You Should See me in a Crown and Rise to the Sun so I wasn't surprised that I enjoyed this story by the same author. I really enjoyed the two main characters in this story and the interactions that they have with one another. I like how we slowly get to learn their secrets and what drew them to speak with each other. 

I loved that this anthology introduced me to new authors that I haven't read before and that I also got to read things from authors that I love. I think each of the stories that were included had something to like about them and what is great is that you can skip around and read them in any order that you wish.
Was this review helpful?
COOL. AWKWARD. BLACK. is such a wonderful anthology of unique and creative stories! Each story felt so different from the last and quickly captured my attention. It was easy to get wrapped up in each story and the breadth of characters; I felt like I could have read full novels for each of these short stories.

I loved how the stories varied from fantasy to contemporary; the multi genre aspect was really interesting and made for a captivating reading experience! I loved how you could go from reading a story about frenemies doing a class project together to aliens touching down on Earth and recruiting a young girl to find three other classmates to bring along with her! I was so intrigued by what the next story would be about that this made for a really quick read.

This was a really fun YA anthology and I can see these stories resonating with a wide audience. I loved the representation throughout the book and I know this will be an amazing book to share with any young adults in your life! I also appreciated the chance to sample the writing of so many authors who have other works published and can’t wait to read those next. I highly recommend reading COOL. AWKWARD. BLACK. today!
Was this review helpful?
This is an absolute powerhouse of an anthology with a lot of big names behind it (including many I've read before like Kalynn Bayron, Tracy Deonn, Leah Johnson, Julian Winters, and Ibi Zoboi to name a few)! This is a great anthology of talented black YA writers with the theme of scifi, fandom, and nerdiness. I like that there are queer authors and stories included, too. Like with most anthologies, there are some I loved and some I didn't like quite as much, but all were enjoyable and good in their own way! My absolute favorites were "Nina Evans, in the Round" (musical theater),  "Corner Booth" (scrabble and words), and "Betty's Best Craft" (knitting/sewing). 

Thank you so much to penguin teen for sending me a copy as part of their penguin teen partners in exchange for an honest review! Cool, Awkward, Black is available on 10 JAN 2023
Was this review helpful?
Cool. Awkward. Black. is a short story collection edited by Karen Strong to be released January 10, 2023. It contains eighteen stories about nerdy Black teenage protagonists, most leaning into the sci-fi or fantasy genre. These stories are appropriate for ages 12 and up, with some light violence and non-sexual romance throughout.

Short story collections are often a grab bag, where some stories will really resonate with you and others may be easily forgotten, but all eighteen of these YA stories were engaging and memorable. While featuring Black protagonists, there were also some other non-white protagonists and a good amount of queer representation as well. If this is the future of YA speculative fiction, I am so excited.

Two of the stories felt more like the first chapter of a novel, Shari B. Pennant’s “The Book Club” and Tracy Deonn’s “Catalyst Rising.” It’s not ideal to have a short story that feels like a first chapter because it leaves the audience with a cliffhanger to a story that may or may not ever be continued, rather than a closed loop with a satisfying conclusion. Then again, the stories were so strong on their own that I would rather have a cliffhanger than not have read them at all. 

Pennant’s “The Book Club” introduces four Black teenage girls who have unique supernatural abilities that they need to fight an evil magician who has been trapped for centuries inside a book. And Deonn’s “Catalyst Rising” features a twist on the mythological Philosopher’s Stone with two groups fighting over its power. Given that Deonn’s Legendborn series is some of the best YA writing that I’ve ever read, I’m not surprised that her short story here also packs a punch. Pennant doesn’t currently have any novels published, but I’ll be sure to keep an eye out for any future works.

K. Arsenault Rivera’s “Initiative Check” will be a hit for any D&D fans, Elise Bryant’s “Betty’s Best Craft” has some superb character growth that would be a good blueprint for young writers, and Isaac Fitzsimons’ “Cole’s Cruise Blues” is a sweet trans coming of age story. I was really impressed with Roseanne A. Brown’s treatment of gender in “Wolf Tracks.” The men in the protagonist’s family are werewolves, which includes the trans men. Most gender-based powers in existing literature either willfully ignore trans people or give them the power of the wrong gender in favor of what sex was assigned at birth, but Brown refreshingly chooses to respect people’s chosen gender- proof that this respect is easily accomplished.

I could wax poetic about every single story in this collection, but it’s best experienced first-hand. Run to your local store or library for a copy of this volume, as it’s not only a great read on its own, but a list of eighteen authors to seek out further for more great writing.
Was this review helpful?
It's really fun and gives readers a good introduction to a lot of good writers that they might not have known before. It could have been shorter and the order of the stories left a little bit to be desired. I feel there were other stories that could have gone first, but it's very cute.
Was this review helpful?
Truly one of the cutest and coolest (of course) books I have read. Can see so many teens loving this special one.
Was this review helpful?
I received a free digital ARC of Cool. Awkward. Black. from PenguinTeen in exchange for a review. 

Cool. Awkward. Black. is a YA anthology featuring a variety of bestselling Black authors who challenge the concept of being a nerd. Black people experience criticism for enjoying "white" hobbies, and the author's of Cool. Awkward. Black. wrote a diverse network of stories that showcase a variety of hobbies. The stories are all well-written, independent of each other, and span various genres. 

Some of my favorite stories include a young trans man on a cruise with his father and stepfamily, an uptight young woman who loves crafting, and a young man going to his favorite con. Many stories talk about racism, transphobia, sexism, and homophobia but also feature themes of love and character growth. 

While I did not love every story in the anthology, there is a story for everyone. Perfect for fans of Blackout and Whiteout, this book makes me proud to be cool, awkward, and black. 

Thank you to PenguinTeen for sending me a free digital copy. I really appreciate it and love the book.
Was this review helpful?
Already pre-ordered! This anthology is excellent. The collection of short stories BLACK ENOUGH edited by Ibi Zoboi is one of my all-time favorites; I've taught several short stories from that book. COOL.AWKWARD.BLACK edited by Karen Strong is a showcase of excellent Black writers, this time celebrating "the geek" with fantastic, engaging, and high quality short stories. There are so many stories to choose from and I'm especially excited to put these in front of my students. The stories by Leah Johnson and Julian Winters will be the first two I use in my teaching.
Was this review helpful?
Karen Strong brings us a new anthology with 17 incredible Black stories. There’s magic, there’s love, there’s character growth, within ever short story. This book is truly beautiful and deserves a place on every single shelf. 

Rather than go through and tell you my thoughts on each individual short story, I’ll share my top three below. 

Nina Evans, In the Round by Kalynn Bayron
This one actually had me tearing up! Nina Evans is a passionate theater kid in the mid 70’s when so few parts are given to black people. She’s desperate to try out for the lead at her school musical but it’s a very real possibility that the mediocre popular will get the role. Her mom tries to steer Nina away from the stage because of how she struggle in her own acting career. But they come to understand each other and take the stage by storm. 

Corner Booth by Leah Johnson
We saw bits of the world outside but the story focuses on the biggest thing in Fergie’s world. The Diner. Where she plays Dictionary Dynamo and feels a few hours of freedom from her life. Until she gets thrown off her game by some obnoxious boy, causing her to lose to her rival. Johnson puts so much into just a few pages, you can really feel how Fergie suppresses her emotions. And the moment everything comes out! Perfection!!

Betty’s Best Craft by Elise Bryant
Serious what is with these short stories having me all choked up? Betty is a crafter extraordinaire, she knows more than anyone. When she’s pair to work with Jhamir Watson, her ex best friend and archenemy, on a creative school project, she is livid. But could this project warm her heart to him like a glue stick in a hot glue gun and knit them back together like strings of yarn? (I’m not sorry about those puns) 

Overall, I’m giving Cool. Awkward. Black. 4.5 stars because there were so many incredible short stories. The purpose and message of this anthology is so important and well executed. There were just a couple stories that I didn’t feel were up to par with the others, hence the .5 star dock.
Was this review helpful?