Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Review: I'M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by Kimberly Jones & Gilly Segal

Rating: 1.5/5 stars

This isn’t normally the kind of book that I would pick up, but I had to read it for the September YA book club at work that I moderate, so here we are. I didn’t care for it. I didn’t hate it, but it was just not for me.

Basically, there’s a black girl and a white girl who are trying to survive the night together after a riot starts at their school. I didn’t think it was explained well how the riot started. A guy punched another guy and all the sudden they’re like, uh oh, it’s a riot! But it wasn’t described in a way that made me feel like it was a big deal. I’ve seen a fight break out and this didn’t seem like anything bigger than the ordinary high school fight. The riot started over the smallest thing and I didn’t get it. And it also wasn’t explained how the one punch turned into a small fight that turned into a town-wide riot, which is a detail I would have liked to know.

I have never experienced anything like the events described in this book, and I’ve never heard about any riots or similar events happening at my school or in my town or on the news near me. I understand that in some places and for some cultures this is a realistic story, but because it’s such unfamiliar territory for me, the reality of it was a far stretch and made me unable to relate to the story. I wonder how often riots like this really are.

I think people who have experienced riots in their own school or town will enjoy this book much more as they would be able to relate to it, but I just couldn’t. That’s probably the biggest issue I had, that I couldn’t relate to the story or characters at all. I also simply didn’t like the book—I didn’t hate it, but this is not a style of book I would have ever picked out to read on my own. I understand stories like this one are important to many people, and I sincerely hope other readers got more out of it than I did. I recognize that this book deals with important topics and very real issues in the world today, and I’m glad there’s a book to discuss it for those looking for that kind of story. 

One saving grace was that this was a quick read. Despite dreading picking it up, I flew through it faster than I read most books, and I wasn’t skimming.

I didn’t like Lena’s voice in the story. I get that it’s “true to culture” but it was so distracting to read not only her dialogue but also her narrative that was omitting verbs and using incomprehensible slang. There was honestly so much slang in this book that I had to utilize Urban Dictionary just to know what some of the characters were saying. This was distracting enough that I struggled to actually focus on the story in the beginning, but I eventually got used to it and ultimately ended up liking Lena better than Campbell.

Campbell’s such an airhead, honestly. I expected her to be a typical smart kid but she was acting so clueless the whole book. Like I’ve probably never read a book with a dumber protagonist than Campbell. I am glad, though, that she was able to learn some things throughout the book about Lena’s culture and eventually stand up for herself in the end. She slowly became more interesting. 

This book feels like horrible stereotyping of both races represented and is a testament to the fact that stereotypes always sell. Both Lena and Campbell have very cliched personalities that I wasn’t surprised by either of their thoughts or actions. I hate saying that, but it feels true to me.

While I appreciate that there’s a map in the back of the book, it’s dreadfully incorrect. The descriptions in the narrative of where they are versus what the map displays is constantly contradictory and confusing. I wish book map-makers would pay more attention to the stories beforehand. The characters would say they’re heading south but they’re also heading toward this one building which is actually north on the map, or the narrative would say that this building is across from that building but it’s not on the map. This map is incorrect if you follow it along with the story; like there is no way it’s drawn correctly.

Also, there was one point where police blockaded the road to the south but then the characters are running away from the police but they’re heading south but the police are still to the south of them, like that didn’t make sense at all. And then there was another point after the police blockaded the road when the friend drives up in his car, but like how did he get there if the police have the road blocked? And also, they kept running around trying to figure out how to get away from Seventh Avenue but they never thought of taking a side road out, they just kept running up and down the street. Like why wouldn’t you just take another street to get away? It never said if any other streets were blocked or not so to me that seemed like a viable option that was never explored.

I know I’m Not Dying with You Tonight is an important book with lots of necessary social commentary about race and black culture. I think many out there will enjoy it, as it’s been compared to the popular title The Hate U Give (which I haven’t yet read); however, I personally didn’t really care for the story. I just don’t want to read about real-world violence and hate riots and the such; I much prefer my fantasy worlds. Even though this book wasn’t for me, I can’t deny that it was compelling and fast-paced and almost begs to be read in one sitting, and I think if it sounds like your type of book then you will enjoy it. It certainly kept me engaged while I was reading, which was a nice surprise because I didn’t expect that it would.

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