Blame It on the Black Star
Newcomer Morley explores the power of grief, anger, and desperation through the eyes of a teenager in this slim coming-of-age tale. Fourteen-year-old Westbrook "West" Washington is devastated when his older brother, Corey, is killed in action in Iraq. Struggling with the loss, West teams up with Corey's former best friend, Ray Ray, for an epic night on the town, which culminates in stealing a car and setting a pile of American flags on fire. When the fire blows out of control and critically injures an elderly veteran, West is tormented by guilt and fear and reconsiders his future. Instead of a scathing commentary on poverty, the African-American experience, or the cost of war, Morley's novel wanders to and fro before ending on a heavy note of forced maturity. Corey's letters home from Iraq feel authentic and raw, and are a highlight of the story. By contrast, West's stilted and uneven narrative comes off as much younger than his years, at odds with the serious material and adult moments. Ages 12–up.