cover image The Black Queen

The Black Queen

Jumata Emill. Delacorte, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-56854-5

Emill’s intense, dual-POV mystery debut recounts the murder of a Mississippi high school’s first Black homecoming queen. The family of haughty, privileged teen Tinsley McArthur has held the title of homecoming queen for the past three generations, causing her to feel entitled to the crown. But Nova Albright, who’s kind and popular, is almost guaranteed to earn the coveted role instead. After Tinsley tries bribing Nova into dropping out of the running and Nova refuses, a drunken Tinsley is recorded claiming “I should have killed her.” When newly crowned Nova’s violently murdered corpse is found on the same night as the recording, everyone believes Tinsley is to blame. Desperate to clear her name, Tinsley endeavors to find out who the real killer is. Meanwhile, Nova’s best friend and the police chief’s daughter, Duchess Simmons, is conducting her own investigation. Emill unblinkingly explores themes of prejudice and privilege through the lens of Duchess, a queer Black girl navigating these issues; Tinsley, a white girl who benefits from structural racism; and Nova, a Black girl mired in generations of secrets. This chilling narrative adeptly portrays the struggle with balancing competing loyalties, personal safety, and pursuit of justice while operating within oppressive systems. Ages 12–up. Agent: Alec Shane, Writers House. (Jan.)