Ever read a book and feel viscerally changed as a person?
That’s me with The Stars and the Blackness Between Them, because oh my god. There are so many emotions running through me because of this book, and I don’t know how to fully articulate them. But today I’m here to attempt to write a review and convince you to pick this book up, because it’s worthy of all your love and adoration.
When Penguin reached out to me about their Daring Debuts Blogger Campaign that featured this book, I jumped on the chance, because I had a strong feeling that the book would be beautiful and that I would love it. And I was right!! So thank you to Penguin for being the absolute best for sending me all these amazing books!!!
Junauda Petrus || September 17, 2019
Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.
Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.
Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.
Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.
Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on this blog tour! This did not affect my opinions in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The way it made me feel, the way it was written—everything about it feels like it was a gift to this world that I wasn’t worthy of experiencing.
My first thought upon finishing was just, “Oh my god.” There are no other words for how I felt, because this book was absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but I teared up so many times reading it. I’m tearing up right now as I write this review.
The book follows two Black girls, Audre and Mabel, who must figure out their place in the world as both of their lives are changed drastically. Audre is forced out of her home when her mother discovers her secret girlfriend, and when the two meet, they become friends and more.
“Life is hard for we women, because we strong and the world ain’t wan’ to love us for it.”
It feels like this book opened up a well inside of me. It was such an emotional reading experience, and once I started reading it, it did not let me go. Not only is the writing and prose itself beautifully done, but just the way the author tackles certain things is gorgeous too—the ending of this book in particular made me let out a gentle “oh” at its beauty.
There’s just something about the way Junauda Petrus wrote this book. It’s ownvoices, so not only did it feel like it was crafted with love and the comfort of knowing, “I’ve lived this life and this is my story”, but it just feels like it was infused with magic.
Both Audre and Mabel were amazing characters, and I loved reading their stories so much. I felt for Audre and the way she was horribly mistreated by her mother for her sexuality, and I felt for Mabel and the way her leukemia-like illness was taking over her life. While my experiences aren’t the same as theirs, especially as a non-black POC, any story involving homophobia makes me really distraught, and leukemia is something extremely personal to me, so I felt so very deeply for them.
Plus, their growth over the book was captivating to follow; this truly was a character-driven novel and I LOVED it. One of the most intriguing things about this book, though, is that it’s written in a way that doesn’t fully allow you to see their relationships with one another grow. And while I did wish there was more, I also thought it was brilliant how the author managed to make me care so much about the characters without that much page time.
On that note, if you love books about family, this is a book for you. Because there were some family-related scenes that my heart just absolutely broke over. Audre has a kind and caring father, and Mabel has the cutest little brother and loving and supportive parents. Reading Mabel’s story in particular and seeing how her family was affected kind of killed me a little inside, because it reminded me of my past self.
Other things I loved in this book were the way that Audre and Mabel talked (in AAVE and slang), because it made it so authentically Black, and I feel like Black readers will truly love it. There were also poems in between sections (written after each of the zodiac seasons), and if the regular prose don’t convince you of this book’s beauty, the poetry certainly will!!
[…] she is killing me softly and I think if I have to die, let it be softly. In her arms, in her smell, in her gap.
The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is not only a story of two Black girls navigating a world that seems to reject them and also learning to love themselves and each other, but also a story of the connections we form with other people, our friends and family, the people we never want to let go of—and what it means when it seems like everything is trying to rip you apart.
It’s also about how we got about our day living our lives, when death looms on the horizon, and it’s a love letter to our home, whether it be our homeland or in the stars. And it’s of course a love letter to queer people, Black people, and queer Black people, and an absolutely stunning depiction of what it means to love yourself and love others, as queer Black people.
I truly cannot recommend this book enough. If you love emotional books, if you love gorgeous writing, if you love f/f, this book is for you. It’s the quiet, absolutely beautiful story about the tender love between two Black girls, and I won’t be getting over it any time soon.
:: rep :: Trinidadian lesbian MC, Black sapphic MC, Black (including Trinidadian) side characters, Black (including Trinidadian and South African) sapphic side characters
:: content warnings :: homophobic violence, homophobia, death (off-page) and themes of dying
are you excited for The Stars and the Blackness Between Them? what has been a recent favorite book of yours? any recommendations for more Black f/f books??