Cover Image: Bright Red Fruit

Bright Red Fruit

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Safia Elhillo's latest, Bright Red Fruit, is an exquisite novel in verse. The main character, Samira, lives in DC with her mother. Her mother is from Sudan and she imposes on Samira many of the cultural pressures that she grew up enduring. The close-knit community at their church has decided that Samira is a bad girl, and she internalizes it so deeply that she doesn't know who to talk to about it. When she meets Horus, an older poet in an online forum, she finally feels seen. Tamadur and Lina are her dear friends, but she puts everything on the line for Horus, including their friendship. This story is an incredibly quick read, but it will linger with the reader for a long time. The characters are exceptionally depicted, the poetry is beautiful, and the story is heart-wrenching. It is very much a story about finding and using your voice.

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Verse novels provide a unique insight into a life, giving a person's thought processes and impressions more than events. That can be interesting but is tricky to engage with. It's reflective and worth dwelling over as Elhillo examines the pressures of family and culture.

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I cried....... it's so beautifully written. This is a coming-of-age story about Samira a Sudanese teen in New York who is struggling and rebelling against the strict cultural expectations as well as attempting to heal the fractures in her relationship with her mother.

She finds herself in poetry, unfortunately an opportunistic older man uses her new interest as a means to groom her, use her, take advantage of the fact that she is desperately seeking validation and love.

Every part of me felt connected to this story. Highly Recommend for those of us who have ever felt alone in a crowded room, prejudged, or was ever blinded by sweet words and a devious smile.

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Bright Red Fruit is coming of age novel written in verse that, through Samira, a Sudanese-America, explores cultural identity, freedom of expression and how easily minors can be exploited.

Samira is a teenage through and through. She wants to live life in a more American way and doesn’t understand why her mother is as suffocating as she is. Samira feeling suffocated leads her to getting creative to try and live the life that she wants too, which also leads to a sticky situation.

As an older reader, it became clear, quickly, where this was going to go. It left me anxious to see if I was right and exactly what was going to end up happening with Samira as she starts to explore a life and relationship she had been sheltered from.

Elhillo had a lovely way of tangling Persephone’s story with Samira’s which only added to the anxiety of what was going to happen to her. I really ended up enjoying this part of the novel.

Bright Red Fruit is a novel I would definitely recommend for female teens as I think there really is a good lesson here. But, honestly it could be great for anyone, especially thoughts who are aspiring writers.

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Wanted to read this because I really enjoyed "A home is not a country" by Safia, and this one is even better. The story flowed so seamlessly and beautifully. I enjoyed the mixture of it being told in verse and also being told in more traditional ways. Samira was so easy to root for, and I loved the development of the relationship between her and her mother. It starts fractured and seems beyond repair, but they're able to get it back. I also enjoyed the exploration of community. Samira is part of a close knit Sudanese American Immigrant community and that can be a bad thing when it comes to rumors spreading and reputations being demeaned but it also ends up being this powerful thing that saves Samira. The Horus relationship was a great example of grooming and emotional abuse. All in all, it is a powerful, impactful, and beautiful story.

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Wow! This book was so poignant and full of emotion! This book is written in prose and tells I love the main character, Samira. I saw so much of my teenage self in her…looking for love from older men that ids really manipulation, and seeking love and attention from her mom. Her initial fragile relationship with her mother brought up so many emotions in me that I have tried to bury.

Elhillo wrote a beautifully crafted masterpiece. Her words came to life and jumped off the page, and the characters’ emotions were so palpable. We got to witness Samira on a journey of pain and heartbreak, and then we see her come into her own as she ends her journey discovering herself and coming into her own. This story was extremely relatable, entertaining, and deep. Elhillo narrates the audiobook, and she did a great job! I am a new fan, and will be reading all of her books later this year.

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Children’s for this beautiful ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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On god, this was the single best in-verse novel I've ever read. Congrats to the author for possessing this much skill!

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BRIGHT RED FRUIT is a strong novel and even stronger example of a novel-in-verse. Although I could see what was going to happen with Samira's relationship, it felt like steps teens need to see play out so that they may know what to avoid in their own lives. The author delivers a compelling story without being preachy or didactic.

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An excellent example of how a novel in verse should be done.

The writing is beautiful and the plot was interesting and well presented despite the challenging form.

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I received a complimentary copy of this book. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

This is a powerful story written in verse. I think the fact that it is written this way makes it even more powerful because less words are used to convey emotions. I felt every emotion Samira, her friends, and her family experienced.

I look forward to reading more from Safia Elhillo.

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This was really beautifully written. It was a captivating story; I could really feel the emotions the author conveyed and felt like I was there. I don’t often read novels in verse, but this was a really wonderful change of pace for me.

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4.5 stars. Thank you to Net Galley and Random House for an ARC of this book in exchange for my honest review. I'll begin with the fact that I already love this author's poetry and prose. This novel in verse of is beautifully written and speaks of the challenges and finding one's own identity as a teen. We meet Samira who has already gotten a bad reputation. She is part of a Muslim community and has already been gossiped about - wrong clothes, wearing makeup, around boys, touching boys and who knows what else. But Samira is just a teenager finding her way in a culture and religion that can feel restrictive while wanting to experiencing a life in America. She also loves poetry and is quite good at it. Her mom is lenient enough to let her join a poetry writing group but is always concerned about her daughter ever since they came from Sudan.

Samira meets another poet online, is warned that he's trouble but she is drawn to his mystique and reputation as a known poet. Needless to say, things go wrong with the poet, her mother, and her friends, and she's at the lowest point. Can she find her way to make things right with all the people she cares about, take a risk and get her reputation back, and live her dreams of becoming a poet?

A

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Even though the plot was entirely predictable, I absolutely loved this coming of age novel told in a mix of poetry, text messages, and emails. I was attracted by that gorgeous cover and my fascination with the world of slam poetry, but it was 16-year-old Samira’s relatable voice that really drew me in and kept me reading. It hurt to watch her making such foolish mistakes, and yet, I remember doing comparable things when I was her age. The author captures the agony of being a teen drawn in different directions, intensely longing for approval and belonging as well as a sense of independence.

I especially love how the myth of Persephone was woven throughout the story. I also appreciated the glimpses of Sudanese-American culture.

I would particularly recommend this book to teenagers, but also anyone who enjoys poetry, myth retellings, and coming of age stories.

I received an ARC through NetGalley, and I volunteered to provide an honest review.

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I’m always weary of reading novels in verse because I’m not a huge fan of them. I always have to read them a few times to really “get” them if that makes sense. But this time, I just read this twice just because I wanted to read it. It really is that good y’all.

So normally the reason I don’t like novels in verse, is because I read it so fast I read it and don’t comprehend it. I usually get through them and realized I flew threw it and didn’t really take it in like I should have. But this time, I had the narration and I slowed it down a bit to 1.5x’s and it was fine. And then in some places I even was able to read in tandem with an e-ARC and it made the experience even better. Especially since the book was so good. I’m a huge fan of re-tellings and this one was a Greek mythology one and I loved it.

I also liked the narration. It was done by the author, so it was really amazing to listen to. Because it was narrated by her, all the correct insinuations and inflections and everything were so on point. And when I was reading in tandem and I was looking at the line breaks in each poem, I was so enthralled. This is the first novel in verse I read multiple times just because I wanted to.

The plot itself was crazy. I yelled at the main character from the beginning to the end. I had to remind myself this was a teen because I was like “GIRL HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW?” He was a scumbag and I hate that she didn’t know what was happening. However, I do know that it had nothing to do with her. He was the one who knew what he was doing. But he was an asshole because of all the things he was doing, HE KNEW IT WAS WRONG and he still did it anyway. HE NEEDED JAIL TIME. And I really hope “after the book” he gets what’s coming to him. I hated that we don’t get that clear ending when we got to the end of the book. I also was really mad at her mom. I do understand that it was the way of their culture, but I was also so sad for their relationship. They spent so much time fighting each other instead of spending time together.

I liked this book so much I added it to a list for a thing we’re doing at work called Tournament of Books. Which is funny because we have used a book by this author before. Just goes to show you, this author is the truth and if you haven’t read her before, you need to. Like yesterday.

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Perfect for fans of Dear Medusa, this novel in verse is heartwrenching and beautiful. This was not an easy read, but it was an important read because far too many young women have gone through similar experiences. I loved the cast of supportive friends who were trying to help Samira throughout the story. The experience of being first-generation children of immigrant parents and trying to navigate two different cultures is one that many of my students can relate to.

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Beautiful, raw, heartbreaking, inspiring. This novel in verse is stunning. I loved Home is Not A Country, and Bright Red Fruit did not disappoint. Samira’s story is one that I unfortunately think is super relatable, so it’s a story that must be told. When I tell you I absolutely love the diversity of female representation in this book, it’s truly amazing. Each woman and girl presented brought something to the table. And even though the story needed a male presence, that presence never once dominated. The female voice was always in control (even when Samira had the least control). Like I said, while it’s sad how relatable the subject is, if we hear more stories told this way, maybe society will hear us when we need them to.

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I LOVE a novel in verse.

This was POWERFUL. I wish I had requested the audiobook, because as much as I love reading novels in verse physical copies, I love listening to the author’s read their own work.

The writing is absolutely amazing, and ugh some parts were tough to read and you want to shake Samira and save her from all of the decisions she’s making.

This was a super quick read, but really wonderful. One of my favorite authors is Elizabeth Acevedo, and I could listen to The Poet X over and over. If you’re a fan of hers, you will love this book too! I highly recommend picking this one up.

Thank you @netgalley for sending this book for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

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This beautifully written, coming-of-age novel in verse follows Samira, a sheltered Sudanese American teen and aspiring poet. She struggles to balance the expectations of her overprotective immigrant mother and the desire to do average teenage things. Things only get worse when she meets an older, well-known poet who manipulates her under the guise of “love.” The story is rich, heartbreaking, and mesmerizing, all at once, with some mythology references weaved in. It’s unputdownable!

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Healing through Poetry.

Having delved into poetry since childhood, I've found solace and strength amidst life's trials. Safia Elhillo's "Bright Red Fruit" resonated deeply with me, serving as a poignant reminder of poetry's capacity to heal and uplift. Through the journey of Samira, a teenage girl navigating the complexities of adolescence under the vigilant gaze of her family, Elhillo crafts a narrative brimming with emotional depth.

The title itself, "Bright Red Fruit," evokes a sense of temptation and consequence, mirroring Samira's experiences as she grapples with her mother's protective nature and societal expectations. As she confronts the pitfalls of online dating and the realities of intimate partner violence, the importance of communication and cultural nuances in relationships emerges as a central theme.

Samira's struggles resonate profoundly, her journey serving as a cautionary tale while also highlighting the resilience of the human spirit. Elhillo's adept exploration of these themes prompts moments of revelation for readers, underscoring the universality of the challenges Samira faces.

The portrayal of poetry as a source of solace for Samira adds another layer of depth to the narrative, showcasing the transformative power of artistic expression in times of adversity. Supported by her community, Samira finds strength in her vulnerability, ultimately emerging as a symbol of courage and resilience.

Elhillo's prose is nothing short of mesmerizing, each word meticulously chosen to paint a vivid tapestry of emotions. "Bright Red Fruit" is more than a book; it's a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the beauty inherent in the human experience. I'm immensely grateful to have encountered this masterpiece, as it has left an indelible mark on my heart and soul.

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I really enjoyed this coming of age story written in verse. The emotions were beautiful and it was a good glimpse into a culture that is different than my own.

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