Matthew’s mom is dead and his dad is a total wreck. Just when Matt thinks he can’t handle any more hard stuff in the world, he meets a girl who has dealt with a great deal more than Matt can even imagine–and she just might have some stuff to teach him. As he navigates his own grief as well as his father’s, Matt starts falling for this girl and learning lessons about life, love, and growing up.
If there’s one thing Jason Reynolds does well, it’s bring a neighborhood to life on the page. That’s on full display here in his latest offering for teens, and it makes for a rich, immersive read. Matthew’s voice is authentic, making for a narration that is both compelling and at times searingly real. A slow burner, like all of Reynolds’s novels, this is one that will stand out to teens who like their stories a bit gritty but wholly real.
Matthew works as a narrator largely because of Reynolds’s skill with his prose. He also knows Matthew really well and allows his grief to simmer on the page. As Matthew finds solace in attending funerals at the funeral home he starts working in, his healing process begins, and readers take that journey with him. The result is a largely successful exploration of what it means to move on after a significant death.
The supporting cast of characters are fairly well fleshed-out, too. They help bring the Brooklyn neighborhood to life, and provide valuable insight into Matthew and his world. This is a character-driven novel about slice-of-life Brooklyn, and it is a gem of a novel. Reynolds is an author to watch, and his storytelling only gets stronger with each offering.
Hopeful, uplifting, and emotionally resonant. This is a title to keep on the shelves, for sure. Recommended.
The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds. Atheneum Books for Young Readers: 2015. Library copy.