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The Boy in the Black Suit Hardcover – January 6, 2015
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From School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up—Matt's mother just died, and his dad isn't coping well, hanging out with the local drunk and downing whiskey, which results in his getting hit by a car and landing in the hospital. Matt is also grieving his mom's death and now he's on his own, until he lands a job at the local funeral home: $15 an hour and Mr. Ray as his boss. Attending other people's funerals helps the teen come to grips with his own grief. Hearing mourners express their real thoughts of suffering at each funeral allows Matt to figure out his own feelings. Mr. Ray is wise and shows up at all the right times to help out the struggling young man, and when Mr. Ray's secrets come to light, he appears even cooler in Matt's eyes. Amid all this, Matt meets Lovey, the girl of his dreams, who is smart, funny, gorgeous, and tough. A mystery intersecting Lovey's life and that of Matt's best friend, Chris, deepens the plot. Written in a breezy style with complex characters who have real lives, this is another hit for Reynolds, fresh off the success of his When I Was the Greatest (S. & S., 2014). The author's seemingly effortless writing shines in this slice-of-life story, which covers a lot of the protagonist's emotional ground. The realistic setting and character-driven tale keeps readers turning the pages of this winner.—Amy Cheney, Alameda County Library, San Leandro, CA
"The realistic setting and character-driven tale keeps readers turning the pages of this winner." -School Library Journal
"A vivid, satisfying and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption and grace." -Kirkus Reviews
"Matt is a wonderfully sympathetic, multidimensional character whose voice is a perfect match for the material and whose relationships with Love and Mr. Ray—also a fascinating character—are beautifully realized. This quiet story is clearly a winner." -Booklist
*"Reynolds’ work here makes him a fine heir to the Walter Dean Myers tradition of loving storytelling that captures the heart and humor of multigenerational black urban experience." -Bulletin, STARRED REVIEW
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Top Customer Reviews
The Boy in The Black Suit follows the exploits of a 17 year old teenage boy who's mother recently lost her battle with cancer(correct me if Im not remembering correctly folks, I read it in January). With time, he ends up taking a job working in a funeral home, hence becoming "The Boy in The Black Suit."
I normally wait until I've actually started describing my pros and cons before I make a declaration this bold, but I think this book will be the best book I've read all year. Diversity in books is interpreted differently by nearly everyone I know, so when it comes to needing diverse books, what fits for one person, might not fit for the next.
When people say we need diverse books, Im almost positive they're talking about a book like this. The Boy in the Black Suit's leading character Matthew Miller(Matt for short) was a character I really rooted for. I hate the word "relatable" because it suggests "relatable" has to be something specific, or a one-size-fits-all answer. But I related to him more than most characters I've read since I dedicated myself to reading diverse titles.
I know the author's been around longer than I've been reading his work, but he reminds me a bit of author Zetta Elliot. I liked his use of language, mainly because the way I speak is very much like Matthew and his best friend. In fact, I'd always laugh to myself when reading, because the way they spoke to one another reminded of my sister and myself, and we're not even from New York.
One of the strongest parts about the book was Matthew himself. He was a male character, who actually seemed like a real person. A lot of depictions of boys and men and boys tend to read as a fantasy to me, which I get. Readers like to have a fantasy of what is a perfect guy to them, but it just seems overdone a lot of the times.
Let's not forget to mention he's African-American. I wasn't sure if I'd get a character who just reminded me of a default character who just happened to be Black, or a main character who reads too hard to remind me that he's Black, but I got neither. I got Matt. A character that you'd automatically know is a black teen, but in a positive light, that doesn't shy away from being born and raised in Brooklyn, NY.
I live in an oh-so small state called Connecticut, that happens to border NY, but I went to college in Brooklyn, and Im sure the writer is from NY. I mean, anyone can "do" NY, but not everyone can "do" Brooklyn. Reading this book, I was in Brooklyn, and not only that, I loved all the other settings(all the places that brought familiarity, like the Cluck Bucket, lol).
Matthew wasn't a scatterbrain like a few teenage protagonists I read. He had intelligent thoughts, and a big love for Tupac, so I know I would've been friends with a kid like this growing up. I think the only real complaint I had was with a detail in the past, feeling the need to tie it's loose end in the present. But I looked past it for all the other amazing details it had!
Matthew reminded me a bit of my 21 year old cousin. My cousin is religious, so he loves wearing fancy suits all the time. I loved how Matt wore a suit for his job at first as a requirement, but with time, he couldn't imagine himself without one. Not to say all kids should be wearing suits all of a sudden, but it was just interesting how the title wrung it's way in more ways than one throughout the entire book.
It's hard to comment on editing on traditionally published books, especially one like this, because it seems as though editors put a lot of time into making this effort perfect. It's easier to comment when there are mistakes =)
Diversity-wise, Im assuming nearly every character except one, was Black. Could be American, of Caribbean descent, or even of African, but most of the characters were Black. Only one character wasn't Black, and he was a bodega owner from Pakistan. He was cool, I wish I would've seen more of him, or other cultures, but I liked how it didn't feel the need to insert-white-character-here, just to make it "relatable"(there's that word again).
Matt also had a girl he was feeling named "Lovey." They had awesome chemistry, and it's really nice to read a book that focuses on the strength of Black Love, because as a Black women, and an Afro-Latina, everything tries to steer me away from Black Love. No one really says it, but it's true, and I do tend to read more books depicting interracial relationships than the latter.
Also liked how it incorporated texting, in a texting generation. And the way Lovey and Matt flirted is very reminiscent of how it was in neighborhoods I grew up in. If I could, I'd buy this book for everyone I know, because it's just that amazing.
The cover is intriguing, and the title is very catchy. It makes you wonder who is "The Boy in The Black Suit" and what does that mean to him. Character names? I'll say they're uncommonly common. They suit the characters, even though I meet a lot of people with names like theirs, outside of Lovey of course!
Sometimes I wish I would've gotten a better description of the characters who made the most appearances in the book though. Matt mentioned being the color of dark wood, but not much else. I couldn't tell if he was tall or short, and only the characters who walked on with little or no dialogue, were described in the most detail.
But overall, it was an amazing read. Im really looking forward to reading some of Jason Reynold's other books =)
I can't remember everyone, but if I had to choose who I dreamcast as my Matthew and Lovey I'd go for Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as Matt, and Brittany Sky as Lovey!
I bought this book for my son’s library and underlined and left my notes everywhere because I couldn’t help myself – I want him to see where I was touched, stilled, literally brought to tears, where I laughed and fell in love with a character, where I simply smiled because the writing is just that. freaking. good.
For me, THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT is a love letter to Brooklyn – whose streets and characters and bodegas are so vivid and real and perfectly captured by Mr. Reynolds that I often felt like I was back on my old block in Bed Stuy – told through the eyes of Matt Miller, a high school kid coming to grips with the death of his mom and the downslide of his dad, just trying to hang on and make sense of life and death and loss and love. Helping him along the way are Chris, Mr. Ray, and Lovey, well-crafted, poignant characters, each playing their own, very unique roles in moving Matt forward one step at a time. The interactions between these folks are touching and funny and so damn life-affirming that you just know, someway, somehow, with this crew in his life, Matt will make it. There might be some tears and struggling, but he’s going to come out on the other end okay and that’s a great way to close the covers on a book. With a hopeful, possibly watery-eyed, smile on your face.
Towards the end of the story, Matt is gifted with a Sempervivum, a plant whose name originates from the latin roots semper and vivus and means “live forever.” That’s exactly what Jason’s characters will do with me – live forever.
If you haven’t yet read this book, if it’s not on your TBR, or already on your bookshelf, do yourself a favor and go to the bookstore or Amazon or the library and snag a copy. Now. This is a must-read, a classic, a story everyone should experience because it’s just that darn good.
So thank you, Jason, for being fierce and amazing and for not writing boring books and for giving us Matt and Chris and Mr. Ray and Lovey.
Matt is a character that I truly love and respect. Despite his grief, he manages to take care of himself and his dad. He still has moments when he can’t shake the pain of his mother’s death but he deals the best way that he can. Meeting Lovey was the best thing that could happen to him. When you find that person who has been through worse hell than you have, and they seem to be doing just fine, you want to get to that point. Though, making yourself tough to hide the pain is just like a walking straight through the doors of depression. It’s a process, you can’t bottle that up and keep it inside. Lovey shows Matt that it’s all smoke and mirrors when dealing with hard stuff in life. You can grieve, but just don’t let it take over your life. She was so good for him and I found their connection beautiful.
This is a wonderfully written book. I think that young adults everywhere should read this book, and just grasp the realness flowing through the pages. It shows you that, no matter what you go through in life, you can rise up and be a great person. Don’t take that dark path into nothingness when there’s more to life than you can possibly imagine. I highly recommend this book!
I'm not usually one for romantic books, but the components of the story really kept me interested.
I liked the characters, and the unusual setting.
I'm just disappointed it ended so abruptly! I felt like it was unresolved.