"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you know, the more places you will go," -Dr. Seuss
New Year, same indie book reviews!
Thank you, Kayla, for sending me your book in exchange for an honest review! Follow her on Instagram @kaylajones3838
|follow me on Instagram @olivia.j.the.wordshaker|
1. The Dialogue
While the dialogue itself was witty and insightful, there were often large, uninterrupted sections of dialogue that made up most of the story. When there is too much dialogue and not enough narration, the characters and what they're doing can get lost. The reader can too easily lose their mental picture of where the characters are in space. Good dialogue is not just about what the characters are saying, but it's also about the balance of dialogue and narration, dialogue tags, and description that adds to the meaning of the words the characters are saying.
Disclaimer: As a white person, I have very limited personal experience with this topic. I live in a predominantly white community, and no one I know personally has any influence in the police system. I'm also not here to invalidate anyone else's experiences or thoughts, especially not the black community's thoughts on this issue. I'm just here to talk about literature. This is purely an outsider's perspective.
On page 96, there's a protest and when the protest reaches the line of police, the police immediately pull their guns on the protestors. Now, I'm sure there's some variance, but police just can't ethically pull their guns on peaceful protestors. That's just not protocol or realistic. Police are only around during protests to keep it from becoming a riot or stampede, not to stop the protest. They would have put up those plastic shields, batons, tasers, and put out tear gas in the worst case scenario, not have just started a gun-led massacre. The protest wasn't a violent riot in the first place. Police rarely actually get violent during regular protests unless the protest itself turns violent.
Disclaimer: I haven't read The Hate U Give, only seen the movie, so my comparisons are just going to be between Set Me Free book and The Hate U Give movie.
The Hate U Give movie had beautiful nuance. And what I mean by nuance is that it looked at the issue of police brutality and systematic racism through a realistic and equally balanced lens. It examined the militarization of police and the black community with care. It didn't paint either side in stereotypes and didn't ignore either side's perspective. Nuance is very important when portraying such a pivotal issue in order to reach as many viewers as possible and to not skew the issue incorrectly.
That being said, I feel like Set Me Free could have used more nuance when tackling the issue of racism and police brutality. Officer 113 was often portrayed as a mustache-twirling villain, and while I do not want to undercut what Officer 113 did, I'd argue that most real people aren't inherently malicious. I'd argue that most police officers don't go out intentionally to terrorize black people. Rather, Officer 113 is most likely a victim of police militarization, fear-mongering, and systematic racism. Which is why the very human reaction of the police officer in THUG was so impactful and important. In that moment, the police officer in THUG realized he had made a grave mistake in the heat of the fear and emotion.While this doesn't excuse his actions, it says something very profound about the police system and humanizes the 'villain' in the situation, which always makes for more interesting fiction and analysis of the issue. However, Set Me Free didn't analyze the issues presented in THUG with the same care and nuance in my rather inexperienced but still valid opinion.
1. The Writing
Jones certainly does have her way with words. When she does describe, it's ethereal, creative, and beautiful. And y'all know how trash I am for purple prose. However, this purple prose set the tone and atmosphere of the "ghost" world perfectly.
2. Brother-Sister Relationship
I really enjoyed the strong relationship that Laura had with Chris, it was very visceral and real. I actually enjoyed seeing Chris being the spearhead of the movement and seeing his complex grieving process. I'm a big sucker for a good brother-sister relationship, and this one was done well, with plenty of angst.
Overall, this was a very moving book. The emotional moments had weight, the tragedies were crushing, and the writing style added to the lightning pace of the story. The themes were commendable and thought-provoking. I've never read anything quite like it, and I think the story will stick with me for a while. The tagline should be . . . The Hate U Give meets If I Stay.
I rated this book 3.5/5 stars, and rounded it up to 4 stars on Amazon and Goodreads!