Cover Image: Cool. Awkward. Black.

Cool. Awkward. Black.

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

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?
Cool. Awkward. Black. is a YA anthology of stories by Black authors about Black teenagers who are awkward or nerdy or just into something really specific. This is an anthology celebrating difference and the unique things that make people who they are- specifically celebrating Black teens who don't fit into a stereotypical mold.

The included genres range from contemporary fiction to fantasy, paranormal, and sci-fi. Several of them center queer characters (including a great story about a trans boy on a cruise with his step-family), some deal with complex family dynamics, friendships, or romance. There's even a fun one where a D&D game takes on a life of it's own!

There's a wide range and not every story was a hit, but most of them were. There are some amazing authors in this collection and it's definitely worth a read. It's a very strong anthology. I received a copy of this book for review via Netgalley, all opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
Cool. Awkward. Black is such a fun anthology collection that ranges across all genres, truly allowing something for everyone. While I didn't love all of these stories, I did completely love some of them. Honestly, how could you not when it features authors like Kalynn Bayron and Tracy Deonn? I just wish some of the stories will evolve into full stories because they would be amazing! This is an obvious choice for any and all libraries - the diversity and representation alone is vital for those who don't get to see themselves in every story.
Was this review helpful?
What a beautiful, fun, heartwarming collection of stories featuring Black MCs! Along with LGBTQ+ rep, realistic looks of life today, magic, nerd culture, and everything in between, this warmed my heart right up this holiday season. My favorite stories were of COURSE Julian Winters and Kalynn Bayron, but I really enjoyed Tracy Deonn's, Amanda Joy's, and Jordan Ifueko's as well. I hadn't heard of some of the other authors, and now I have new books waiting for me in my TBR! I'm so glad this book exists.
Was this review helpful?
This short story anthology that challenges the concept of “geek” touches on what it means to be Black and to be a geek. The stories range from sci-fi to fantasy to contemporary. Some have romance plot lines, others are about friendship, and still others about the importance of family. Although there were a few stories that stood out to me in particular, I did find this anthology to be a little bit disappointing. Some of the short stories would be better suited as full length novels, and I struggled to get in them due the limited length. However, there were a few stories that I loved including the stories written by Tracy Deonn, Julian Winters, Elise Bryant, Kalynn Bayron and Leah Johnson. This would be a great addition to classroom libraries; a lot of young Black people will see themselves and their interests represented in these pages.
Was this review helpful?
I absolutely loved this! Novels like these are hard to rate just because of how contrasting the ratings between stories can be. I did overall think this was well done though. I started giving short reviews to each short story but promptly gave us around halfway when I realized how many there were. Here were the half that I did do though! The others were (mostly) great as well.

— "Our joy, Our Power" by Julian Winters


I was super excited for this short story because of my love for Julian Winters! This was super sweet, especially the overarching message. The setting was adorable, and I liked the main couple even if we didn't get time to see them develop. 

— "The Book Club" by Shari B. Pennant


I'm a sucker for a good bookstore setting and fantasy, so I knew I'd like this from the start. Secret magical societies are going to hit every time, so I wish I could've gotten more of this. 

— "Nina Evans, in the Round" by Kalynn Bayron


I'm like really not a fan of this author, so this was a bit a change. I quite liked the wholesomeness with the family dynamics and hopefulness of this one. I enjoyed the inclusion of theater in this historical setting. 

— "Earth is Ghetto" by Ibi Zoboi


I'm not going to lie. I was confused for most of the start, but... ailens! I did like the relatability of the main character in ways but not much else. It's definitely an interesting idea, though? I ended up skimming this one.

— "Initiative Check" by K. Arsenault Rivera


This was so fun! Second chances in this magical setting. I wish I could spend more time with these characters and get more explanation on the fantasy, but it works as a short story.

— "Corner Booth" by Leah Johnson


Another author, I'm not a huge fan of who surprised me! I'm finding that I just love most of these settings. This was nerdy and cute and just a good time. It was predictable, but I doubt it was really trying to throw you for a turn with the twist.

— "Betty's Best Craft" by Elise Bryant


I can't really bring myself to like these second chance stories that much just because I feel like I need more attachment to the characters. But also, this relationship wasn't my favorite of the bunch. I did like the inclusion of crafts and such in this, though.

— "The Panel Shows the Girl" by Amanda Joy


I loved Anaya and her magical little sketchbook. I can't really say much without spoiling this one, but I thought the plot was creative and executed nicely as well! 

— "Spirt-filled" by Jordan Ifueko


I just wasn't really interested in this one. I also ended up skimming it. I'm also just not a fan of most works with religious themes. 

— "Cole's Cruise Blues" by Issac Fitzsimons


Adored the trans rep in this one! Queer middle school stories are always just pleasant as a whole. There's always a tenderness to them. This was probably my favorite! I also adored the authors other novel so I expected to enjoy this one and was correct.
Was this review helpful?
From contemporary to historical, fantasy to sci-fi, magical to realistic, this book is an anthology  that celebrates and redefines the many Blackness and geekiness. As a black person and someone who's a little nerdy and a little geeky I absolutely loved this book from the first page to the last I was enthralled. I love seeing people like me being written about and seeing people like me being portrayed in everyday writing! If I could give this book 10 stars I would!!
Was this review helpful?