Booksmart 17-year-old Jay Dupresh has one goal: get a full-ride scholarship to Northwestern to honor his older brother, who gave up his college dreams to help support their financially struggling family. On top of his collegiate desires, however, Jay also struggles with the need to be accepted and liked. After a charged encounter with 18-year-old Leroy, the younger brother of the Black Diamonds gang’s leader, who intervenes when homophobic bullies target Jay, the two develop an electric friendship that soon blossoms into tentative courtship. Meanwhile, Leroy is wrestling with his own challenges: a run-in with a biased teacher sees Leroy on the verge of expulsion, so he recruits Jay’s help in applying for a GED program. But when an unexpected attack leaves both boys injured, it becomes evident that there are greater threats to their fledgling relationship than a mutual fear of rejection. Miller’s debut is laudable for its intimate portrayal of a Black community combatting systemic violence by creating their own institutions of support via the Black Diamonds, whose initially intimidating outward reputation begets a collaborative organization devoted to protection. Moreover, Miller sketches a panorama of queer Black characters who, even under threat, not only survive but thrive. Ages 13–up.
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