Welcome to Black History Month! Last year I focused on Black Girl Magic and spotlighted some of my favorite Black heroines. With Black Panther coming out next week (did ya’ll buy your tickets yet?) and in honor of King T’Challa, I wanted to focus on our Black Kings in YA literature.
As I was compiling my list of favorite characters, I realized that a bunch of them all come from the mind of Jason Reynolds, who is truly a king himself. So, here are two of my favorite characters that Jason created.
Matt Miller – The Boy in the Black Suit
Matt was such a sweet soul who was having to deal with one of the hardest moments of his life – losing his mother, and by extension his father who was not handling the loss well. I felt that Matt’s introspective nature about life, family, and dating is what really connected with me. I felt sorry for him for his loss, but yet was touched by his strength to keep going, to find a job, and to handle being thrust into an adult role without losing it. Matt is a character that many teens can relate to and also a teen who could be a literary role model.
Miles Morales – Miles Morales: Spiderman
When I was younger I was a Peter Parker stan but after reading Spiderman, I’m like “Peter who?” I loved Miles for all of his snarkiness, his humor, his desire to seek out justice, and his inquisitive nature. He is a smart kid who is using his powers for good, but he was a wonderfully flawed character at the same time. I could imagine Miles in my classroom being that kid that I know has so much potential if given just the right nudge. I know many teens would be able to connect with him (as one of my students really does love Miles) as they will see themselves in him and see that an Afro-Latino boy can be a superhero.
Marlon Sunday – Orangeboy by Patrice Lawrence
One of the reasons I love Marlon is because he is one of the most frustrating character. Poor Marlon was put in an unfortunate position and tried to make the best of a horrible situation but ended up doing everything wrong. So many times I wanted to scream at Marlon, but that is what made him real to me. He was this geeky kid who was living with the legacy of a troubled older brother, dealing with an intense mystery that is spiraling out of control, and wanting to protect his mom from further heartbreak. What I loved about him was that no matter how many mistakes he made, he always got back up again and tried his best. His determination, his desire to help his brother and his family really stood out to me. I feel that kids who might make all the wrong mistakes can look to Marlon as an example of getting up each time you fall because that is was truly matters.
Seven Carter – The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
While Seven is not the main character of THUG, he does play a significant role in Starr’s life. Seven is the type of older brother I wish I had. He’s the one that can tease you like no one else, but also be the one who will have your back whenever you need it. I truly loved his and Starr’s relationship, but also that he was a young man who had a good head on his shoulder and was always looking forward. He is definitely a character that many teens can relate to both as a young man who is trying to figure out life as a young man on the cusp of adulthood, and as a big brother.