cover image The Boy in the Black Suit

The Boy in the Black Suit

Jason Reynolds. S&S/Atheneum, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-1-4424-5950-2

When high school senior Matt realizes that working at the local chicken joint might mean cleaning up vomit, he reluctantly accepts a job at the neighborhood funeral parlor—the same one where his mother’s funeral was just held. To Matt’s surprise, he finds relief in watching funerals and seeing how mourners handle their grief, and he begins to grow closer to the funeral home’s owner, a local character. As he did in When I Was the Greatest, Reynolds portrays Brooklyn’s largely African-American Bed-Stuy neighborhood convincingly; Matt and his family are lower middle-class, as are their neighbors, but gangs and violence are a presence, as well. Coincidences and plot twists (including a car accident that conveniently helps Matt’s grieving father address his drinking problem) detract from the impact of the story as it develops. Romantic interest Lovey, a very appealing girl Matt meets at her grandmother’s funeral, doesn’t come on the scene until halfway through the book, and the wait feels long. An affecting story of a teenager’s path through pain, but one whose faults offset its strengths. Ages 12–up. Agent: Elena Giovinazzo, Pippin Properties. (Jan.)