Member Reviews

So the best books cause feelings and this book caused them all.

Grief. Rage. Sadness. Disappointment. Wistfulness. And the sweetness that comes with a near perfect romance. It had all the feels.

I was one of the few girls of my background in my private high school, so I really got this. Luckily, my situation didn't end in murder!

Aside from the feels, the book was simply hugely suspenseful. This was a non-stop thriller and I didn't want to stop reading.

I loved this!

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Jumata Emill latest book, Wander in the Dark, is a YA mystery thriller written to the extreme of privilege, entitlement, social status, racism, and homosexuality. I ONLY finished this book because it is a YA read and I’m always looking for a new read in the classroom. The author’s efforts were socially and politically messages to make points on many controversial topics. To many topics and left leaning opinions in one reading. I’ll read the newspaper for this. Told in dual POV from half brothers. The privileged one trying to prove his unprivileged brother did not murder the popular white girl they attend private school with. Thank you NetGalley and Random House Children’s, Delacorte Press.

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Amir and Marcel are estranged half-brothers that haven't spoken in years until the night of Marcel's birthday party. Amir is really only there to see Chloe, Marcel's best friend. Amir and Chloe leave the party and continue the night hanging out, eventually back at Chloe's house. When Amir wakes up, Chloe is dead, and Amir is the last person to see her alive. Now he's being charged with her murder. Marcel embarks on a mission to save his brother through investigating what's happened. They set out to clear Amir's name.

This was a fast-paced easy to read thriller that kept me trying to figure out who the murderer was. I also enjoyed the family dynamic of Amir and Marcel coming together after having been estranged.

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What a ride! Wander in the Dark is a well plotted social thriller that kept me at the edge of my seat. Readers won't be able to put this one down. Highly recommended.

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Wander is the Dark is a true YA thriller. The book is entirely set around teenagers living their worst nightmare, one of their classmates is murdered and another classmate is accused of the murder. There were so many clues, so many paths to follow. I followed each one but it was not a surprise to me as to who the murder truly is.

The dialogue threw me off, especially at the beginning. The slang that was used had me re-reading parts to get a better understanding of what was happening. There was a lot of attention given to the profiling of Black men and women. I found it interesting how different tax brackets, different colored skins, and different sexes all were treated differently under the same circumstances.

This is a fast paced, easy to read thriller.

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If you like family dramas, you will love this one. A sad story reveals half brothers split in their father's relationship. Amir stays with his mom in a poor environment, which makes him bitter and angry at his half brother's fortune. Marcel lives a privileged life. So much of this story deals with the difference in privilege and entitled lives compared to ones who deal with racial and social injustice.

The story is set in one of the most fascinating cities, New Orleans. After the Mardi Gras, Amir takes home a white privileged girl, Chloe, and one of the most popular girls in high school. She invites him to stay the night. He passed out and when he awakens the next morning, he finds her stabbed to death. A gruesome crime he is seen flees from and soon accused of committing. The odds are stacked against him.

Even though Amir and Marcel are different in their social levels, Marcel knows Amir did not kill her, so they set out to find the killer and clear his name. This was an interesting take on two teenagers thinking way ahead of the investigators. An atmospheric read since it is set in one of the most mystical, cultural cities that we love to visit. It was fast-paced and never a dull moment since I was captivated by the hunt of a killer.
Thank you NetGalley and Random House Children's, Delacorte Press for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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This book ticks so many boxes for me: well-plotted whodunnit, thrillers told through a social commentary lens, dark academia vibes, and family drama. One can only hope the story lives up to the expectation.

Short answer - YES!

Jumata Emill not only pens an intense and fast-paced mystery but brilliantly weaves gut-wrenching relevant social commentary. Themes include racism, minority stereotyping and profiling, social justice, privilege and entitlement. Wander In The Dark gives me Ace of Spades vibes, which I also love. We need more books like this, which spark important and necessary conversations.

I appreciate the depiction of blended families in the story. The characters of Amir and Marcel, who are half-brothers, come across as genuine individuals in their conflicts with each other, their respective families, and their blended families. Jumata Emill fully develops these characters, making me invested in their journeys and rooting for a positive outcome.

Kevin R. Free (Marcel) and Niles Bullock (Amir) excel with the narration. I’m not sure how old they are, but they sound fantastic as teens, expertly handling the slang, capturing teenage angst, and helping the listeners fully immerse in their world. I literally couldn’t stop listening! I highly recommend this format!!!

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Amori and Marcel are brothers they have two different mothers thanks to their dad Martin cheating on Amari‘s mom and leaving her to be with Lily Marcel‘s mom thanks to the adults bad behavior the brothers or estranged despite the fact they go to the same school. And a late private school set in New Orleans it’s fat Tuesday and Marcel‘s birthday so when his best friend Chloe text Amari and lors him to Marcel‘s party he isn’t sure why but because he likes Chloe he goes. Amari is street smart and thanks to his mom and Lily has grown up misunderstanding where he fits in their family. Marcel is much more astute and well-rounded thanks to growing up with both his parents and wants to make a truce with his brother something the grandmother died wanting. On this night however Amari is still angry and when his brother confronts him as to why he is at the party Clo butts in and ask Amari to take her home. Her ex Trey who is the son of a black senator is there and wants her back at Clo’s house her and Amorie smoke blunts and get to know each other better but when Amari wakes up Chloe is nowhere to be found when he goes up to her bedroom and turns the light on she is bathed in her own blood and deceased. Of course they think Amari did it everyone except for his brother Marcel. When he tries to let him know he will be there for him and they will find out what happened Amari has no time for him. Marcel first thinks Trey is the culprit but when he starts investigating he finds something so wicked and evil that when Marcel finally tells the principal he thinks he will immediately get angry and take action but is left baffled by the principles nonchalance. This doesn’t mean he didn’t find dirt on tray because close did have a memory stick on evidence of the senators wrongdoing something Trey leaves no doubt that it is important to him his sister and her family to keep quiet. While all this is going on Marcel and Amari have their own internal investigation with Y their family went so wrong. Lots of people have mixed families but the things that were said to Amaury or things no parent should say to a child and both boys want to know why. Marcel also is plagued by guilt for incident he’s carried with him for years. The day of the grand jury is growing closer but it seems the guilty or getting further away can Marcel find the true culprit of the murder his brother is being tried for can he get his brother to believe he really does love him and wants them to be friends and like brothers the way their grandmother wanted? This is the second book I have read by Jumata Emil and with both books my rating changed throughout. In both books we have blatant racism against white people and yes white people some terrible people but I don’t think hatred coming from anyone is a good look. When I was little I remember being at rallies and this man said something about my friend being black but used a derogatory term and my dad wanted to tell him something and my mom stopped him and said just consider the source because no one who would say such things is worth your time at least that’s what I got from that and I never forgot it. And having such statements as it’s us against them just makes me feel sad for those who feel that way. As far as the dialogue goes I thought she did a great job with the local dialect because as a person who lives in New Orleans and has teenagers I really thought she downplayed a lot of it but definitely hit close to home with the verbage. I’d love to Amari and Marcel but I did find some of the dialogue between the adults and the abrupt about face doesn’t feel believable but I know it’s written quickly for entertainment purposes and it definitely did that because I was totally entertained I love yeah thrillers and mysteries and the author is definitely talented when it comes to that genre. I do wish she would tone down the hatred or at least not make every white character in her book unredeemable I do notice there was always just one who is deemed an OK white person and I guess they’re in the book so as not to totally offend everyone because if not for that one the book would seem quite hateful despite the great ending. I want to thank the publisher and Net Galley for my free arc copy please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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3 stars

I like a good YA mystery as much as the next person. This delivers on that, with dialogue that highlights this is for a younger reader. It is a page turning, but anxiety inducing read; probably not for the reasons you might think. There is an aspect to “the game” that is going on, and how it is handled by the adults with little resolution that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. In combination with how some things are over explained and the predictable mystery which would lend itself for a younger reader but the game an older one, I’m not confident on the perfect target audience. Maybe an older reader who likes social horror and a light mystery?

Thank you to the author, publisher, and NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The quick cut: Two brothers work together when one of them is caught fleeing the scene of a murder for one of their classmates.

A real review:
Thank you to Delacorte Press for providing the arc for an honest review.

The world is a far from perfect place and for some, that means having to be more careful due to the color of their skin. No one enjoys being discriminated against, but racial bias is one of the most pervasive issues we have as a society today. For Amir and Marcel, these brothers will discover how deep that issue is when their classmate Chloe is discovered dead.

Amir and Marcel may share a father, but they're far from being brothers. While Marcel wants to repair their relationship, Amir is uninterested. In fact, Amir only shows up for Marcel's birthday because their classmate Chloe begs him to. So when Amir wakes up the day after to see Chloe dead, he's horrified by what he sees. How can Amir clear his name when he never saw what happened?

This story is such a thrill ride from start to finish. Themes of racial bias and family trauma are at the core of the story, which are such important topics. The characters feel real and make you want to see a happy ending. I enjoyed it start to finish!

Amir is more than distrustful of his brother Marcel and their father. He's got good reasons for that and it plays a big role in the plot. Seeing him unravel the crime he's left in the middle of requires him to check his bias and learn who to trust.

Marcel lives in a world that doesn't truly accept him and seeing that unravel is hard to accept. He spends this story dedicated to clearing his brother's name, but has to clear his conscience in the process. It's a personal journey about how he has to admit his own mistakes to discover the truth behind the crimes committed.

Dual narratives from the brothers really improved the story. You end up invested in BOTH of their personal journeys, which only gets you more excited for the family subplot. The only flaw I saw was in the crime itself, but that's a minor complaint.

A hard hitting story with enough heart to stick with you for a long time.

My rating: 4.5 out of 5

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Another complex racially charged YA thriller. There's a lot going on here, and some of the content would certainly be upsetting to readers/students of color make sure you're aware of trigger warnings. Emill's books are solid, and Wander in the Dark was no exception. The characters have complicated backstories, and there are a lot of family dynamics at play. I think many high school students would like this one.

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Half-brothers Amir and Marcel Trudeau have never really gotten along. When restaurateur Martin Trudeau left his first wife Monica to marry his pregnant mistress Lily, the seeds were planted for a sibling rivalry that would last almost two decades. However misguidedly, Amir and Marcel grew up feeling that they had to compete for their father’s affection and love.

Only the recent death of their Nana was able to shake this dynamic. As Marcel explains:

QUOTE
Nana, our grandmother, used to say Amir and our father are so much alike. Both stubborn. Unwilling to do the work and meet each other halfway to fix their relationship.

That’s where I come in. Nana said if anyone can bring our family together it’s me. “You my little busybody,” she said once. “Just nosy and eager to be in charge, make everyone feel better. That’s special. You’re special.” On her deathbed, she made me promise that I’d do what she never could. God rest her soul. I’m taking charge and bridging the divide in our family.

To do that, we all have to start dealing in truths and not the skewed versions of it we’ve allowed ourselves to believe.
END QUOTE

Since then, Marcel has been trying his best to reach out to his older brother. He’d hoped that being at the same school would help, after Amir transfers in to New Orleans’ prestigious Truman Academy in his senior year. But Amir does his best to avoid Marcel, even declining to attend his big Mardi Gras birthday party.

Enter Chloe Danvers, the hot white girl who happens to be one of Marcel’s best friends. She sends Amir a flirtatious message, saying she wants to get to know him better at the party. Amir can’t resist that kind of invitation, and is intrigued enough by smart, sexy Chloe to follow her home afterward. She confesses that she wasn’t actually trying to get into his pants, but doesn’t want to be alone in her house while the rest of her family is out of town. Amir is happy enough to keep her platonic company, smoking weed with her and playing Truth Or Dare before falling asleep on her couch. So it’s a total nightmare for him when he wakes up later that night to find her viciously stabbed to death in her bed.

Amir is swiftly arrested for Chloe’s murder. Marcel soon finds himself his brother’s number one advocate, steadfastly believing in Amir’s innocence and going so far as to investigate in an attempt to clear Amir’s name. Despite Amir’s discomfort at the amount of time this forces them to spend together, he can’t help but be slowly won over, even if the brothers have wildly different world views:

QUOTE
“You’re privileged, Marcel!” I shout. “Privileged to live in your bougie bubble where you don’t have to think about race or worry about anyone thinking less of you. You have money. The status. They’ve accepted you.”

“They <i>who?</i>”

“White people! Your friends. This world, <i>them</i>, they don’t see you the way they see me,” I say, stabbing myself in the chest with my finger.

“So what are you saying?” he says. “That because I haven’t struggled, I’m not Black enough? Why does everything about the Black experience in this country have to be about struggling?”

“Because for most of us, it is.”
END QUOTE

This kind of social consciousness serves to ground the proceedings in realism as the brothers learn how to truly be a family, while figuring out who really murdered Chloe and hopefully saving Amir from prison as well. Full of contemporary issues that affect so many young people today, this cleverly plotted, excellently characterized tale told from both brother’s viewpoints feels like it could be ripped from the headlines. Amir and Marcel each have their struggles growing up Black in America, but Jumata Emill makes it clear that they’re not in some sort of misery Olympics. What’s important, as Wander In The Dark so perfectly depicts, is that solidarity and the truth work hand in hand to make life better for everyone, and that the guilty face up to and take accountability for their crimes, no matter how big or small.

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I enjoyed this book. I loved that it kept you guessing until the end. The family dynamics and being able to work through problems were are nice addition to the story.

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I can't put into words how much I enjoyed this book! It was so much more than meets the eye - I thought it was going to be a traditional YA suspense/thriller, but it hit on so many other big topics like class, race, justice, and other societal conflicts...all of which more of us need to read about in today's world. I typically prefer novels that have a female protagonist/main character, but I loved hearing from Amir - his character was well-developed and the pacing made this one hard to put down! This one will easily make it to my classroom library and I know my kids will love it. Thanks so much for the ARC!

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Thank you Netgalley and Delacorte Press for the ARC!

"Wander in the Dark" by Jumata Emill is a chilling and atmospheric young adult mystery that delves into themes of privilege, entitlement, and social/racial injustice. The story revolves around Amir, a Black boy accused of the brutal murder of a white girl from a wealthy family, and his estranged half-brother Marcel, who refuses to abandon him.

I really enjoyed the setting of Mardi Gras in New Orleans, which is quite unique and isn’t a setting tackled in a lot of YA books. The atmosphere of the book was really intense and well-developed, which worked well with the plot and mystery/thriller aspects of the book. There were also plenty of heart-breaking moments, highlighting the ugly results of profiling when the innocent are not presumed innocent until proven guilty. These moments will definitely stick with me for quite awhile after finishing the book. Emill weaves together a tale of horror where everything, even lives, can be bought for a price. The revelations that surface throughout the story are deeply disturbing, forcing Marcel to confront hard truths that change his life forever.

The one part of the book that took a little getting used to was the use of slang that required me a chapter or two for readers to fully understand, but it was really effective in enhancing believability of the perspective of teenagers in that setting. I consider myself pretty up to date on modern slang, but it still took me a bit to get used to the writing style. Older readers may have the same problem, but I think younger readers would definitely enjoy this writing style.

Emill also addresses real-world issues, such as racial profiling, wrongful convictions, and the targeting of Black students in a secret game at their school. I think this book, just like “Ace of Spades” that was released last year, could invoke thought-provoking conversations in high school students in the classroom. The characters, particularly Amir and Marcel, are well-drawn and evoke genuine emotions, making you invested in their journey. They felt so real and well-written; I was instantly drawn into their story and motivations.

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phenomenal writing style, super cool book, and a really epic whole thing going on there. the characters' bonds work very well too. thanks for the arc.

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I received a free copy from NetGalley. Race, privilege, class, blended family dynamics - this story has a lot to unpack and that is without adding a murder to the mix. Great over all, but I did feel the teen slang was a bit of a stretch a few times.

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In this book Jumata Emill creates a tense murder mystery that at its heart is more about the relationship between two estranged brothers than the mystery itself. Unlike many murder mysteries where the detective character(s) is only there to advance the plot, Emill made me more interested in the brothers, Amir and Marcel, than in the mystery (although having that lingering in the background definitely made me worried for them and kept me up reading way too late!).

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First 5 star read of the year and it's a Jumata Emill!

I was so hype when I received a copy of this book for review because The Black Queen was one of my favorite reads of last year and I am definitely a fan of the authors writing and this was no exception!

The writing Jumata brings is so easy to just absorb yourself into. It's definitely not a new or never been done mystery but for the age it's being written for it's definitely a needed voice!

The characters were all so well written and I absolutely loved the brother dynamic between Amir and Marcel. I was definitely bawling by the end!

The story covered some heavy topics and took a few wild turns throughout and I was so eating it up!

I cannot wait to see what Jumata does next !

Thank you so much to the publisher for the advanced copy!

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i am… hooked. this is the second book by this author that i’ve read and it officially marks an auto-buy author. the way emill writes characters that feel so real needs to be studied because everything the characters did, said, and thought felt like it was happening. i think the reason i liked this book so much is that it celebrates black men who don’t fit the stereotypes often portrayed by the media. the main characters, Amir and Marcel, are unlike any character i’ve read before and i really liked their development as brothers and as men through the book. 
** there are potentially triggering messages located in this book around the time they begin talking about “The Game.” these messages are graphic, racist, and include the use of slurs. be careful, take care of yourself, be kind to yourself**

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