Book Review: Blackout

Title: Blackout

Author: Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon

Genres:  Contemporary Romance

Pages: 256

Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Review Copy: Purchased

Availability: Available now

Summary: A summer heatwave blankets New York City in darkness. But as the city is thrown into confusion, a different kind of electricity sparks…

A first meeting. 

Long-time friends. 

Bitter exes. 

And maybe the beginning of something new.

When the lights go out, people reveal hidden truths. Love blossoms, friendship transforms, and new possibilities take flight.

Review: I’m loving the recent trend of YA short story anthologies, so when Blackout was announced I was so excited but also didn’t know what to expect. Anthologies where the stories are connected are not done very often so I was looking forward to seeing what these fabulous authors would create. I will say I was not disappointed.

Tiffany D. Jackson’s “A Long Walk” starts off the anthology setting up how all the other stories link up. Kareem and Tammi, Jackson’s couple, have been broken up for a few months and are together by happenstance when the blackout hits. The way Jackson writes this moment had me laughing because we’ve all experienced the pause of “what just happened?” when thrust into total darkness. After the building they are in is evacuated, the two have to figure out how they are going to get home to Brooklyn and decide to start walking. What we get over the course of the book is akin to a tour of New York City as the two make their way home and rekindle their relationship.

Jackson’s story also serves to connect the characters as the stories also connect in a “six degrees of separation” way. Nic Stone’s story “Mask Off” is a sweet story of crushes and friendship. The story is told by Jacorey “JJ” Harding who is a basketball star who holds a secret, and is on the path to exploring his identity. He is on the subway when the blackout hits with his crush Tremaine, who is Tammi’s younger brother. As Tremaine fights to control his claustrophobia, JJ watches over him and reflects on the times the two have interacted, culminating in a night where JJ and Tremaine connected romantically, but have not seen each other since. The blackout is basically JJ’s second chance with Tremaine and their conversation about being queer and family and basketball is beautiful. I loved the two young men together and I would love to see how their relationship blossoms.

I also loved Ashley Woodfolk’s short “Made to Fit” as that story takes place in a senior home where Nella is visiting her grandfather, Ike, when Joss and her dog Ziggy walk in. I loved the way Woodfolk writes all the seniors and how, just as grandparents do, create a scenario for Nella and Joss to team up to solve a mystery (and to set the two girls up of course!). The story had me giggling with a huge smile on my face and I really loved Nella’s and Joss’s interactions. Nella had been avoiding meeting Joss because her grandfather kept saying the two would be perfect together, which through the course of the story, Nella realizes her grandfather was correct and opens herself up to starting a relationship with Joss. 

I forgot to mention another connection all the stories have. There is a block party in Brooklyn that a character named Twig is hosting that night. Twig is mentioned in just about every story and all the characters, at some point, decide to make their way to the party.

Next up is Dhonielle Clayton’s story, “All the Great Love Stories…and Dust”, which is set in the famous main New York Public Library where best friends Tristan and Lana hide to complete a bet after the library is closed due to the blackout. This friends-to-lovers tale gives us a look into their comfortable relationship where the two push and pull each other. Clayton also effectively used footnotes as asides for Lana’s thoughts as she tries to find the words to tell Tristan that she is in love with him and I loved that technique. I’m not a fan of footnotes, but they brought the story alive to me in a unique way that fit the character perfectly (she’s a huge reader).

The story that cracked me up the most was Angie Thomas’s “No Sleep Till Brooklyn” as the story is told through Kayla’s eyes as she’s on a school trip to New York from Mississippi with her boyfriend and her crush. I loved that an tourist’s view of NYC was included in this collection as we got to experience NYC in a different way. The interactions between the students and the teacher also had me cringing and giggling, while I really felt Kayla’s internal conflict at being with her boyfriend because that is what everybody expects since they’ve been together for so long, versus having someone else see her for who she is now. Being stuck on a tour bus really heightens the emotions and I enjoyed how the drama in a small space played out.

Nicola Yoon’s “Seymour and Grace” finishes out this wonderful collection of shorts with a dual perspective story of a unique meet cute between the two characters. Grace is on her way to Twig’s block party to try to get back together with her ex-boyfriend and Seymour is her ride-share driver. They initially butt heads but after being stuck in traffic, then a car breakdown, the two eventually find they have much in common. It is the perfect story to round out the collection as we get glimpses of the other characters at the party while watching a brand new couple come together.

Overall Blackout was a fun read and a perfect book for summer. I loved all the different ways the stories connected and how they captured the spirit of New York. I cared about all the characters and how their relationships developed so much that I was sad to be leaving their world when I finished the book. I hope any (or all) of the authors would revisit these characters as I would love to know what happens next. This was a great book of the different types of love and for Black love and I’m so glad these six authors came together to create a wonderful set of stories for us to fall in love with ourselves.