I love short story collections. I love love. I love short story collections about love. Blackout is a collection of six (interlinked) short stories by six bestselling, award-winning, and critically acclaimed Black authors, and it about knocks every short story collection I’ve read in the past five years out of the park. If this one is not on your summer reading list yet — add it! Need another reason to pick this YA contemporary up: it’s just been announced that Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company is on board to produce Blackout in a six-part anthology for Netflix.
It’s summer in the city, and New Yorkers are sweltering under a heatwave. Two bitter exes discover that they’ve both applied for the same paid internship at the Apollo Theater. A job they thought they’d already bagged . . . when the lights go out across all of New York City. It’s a blackout. Now it’s not like Tammi and Kareem want to make the trek home together, but without the cash for a ride share, only one fully charged cell phone, and the sun setting, concessions have to be made. And so begins “The Long Walk Home,” short story number one written by Tiffany D. Jackson, which over five segments spans from the beginning of the novel almost to the end and gives both Tammi and Kareem complex character arcs. And, oh, the feels.
The story cuts to Tremaine and JJ. Former classmates trapped on a dark subway train. Tremaine’s got severe claustrophobia, yet athlete JJ struggles to get up and help when he spots his former classmate (and maybe more) across the train. He’s still coming to terms with his identity, and it’s like the blackout has just put a clock on his coming out. The story is by Nic Stone and called “Masks Off” and packs both an emotional punch and a strong message on multiple levels.
Short story “Made to Fit” is by Ashley Woodfolk (feel-good insta love). “All the Great Love Stories … and Dust” by Dhonielle Clayton (lifelong friends turned maybe more?). “No Sleep ’til Brooklyn” is by Angie Thomas (sharp humor and a love triangle). “Seymour and Grace” by Nicola Yoon (love at first Uber ride). And they are — each and every single one — INCREDIBLE.
Blackout is a celebration of Black love and Black joy, and it’s high-entertainment and pure delight watching this story unfold. It’s a glued-to-the pages kind of feel as we make our way through the blackout. With each story, we meet a new set of characters, each with their own relationship problems, and each protagonist with their own vulnerabilities. It’s incredible how much character and story development is packed into these pages. And the short stories are ALL connected to one another, be it by way of a sibling or best friend connection (Tremaine is Tammi’s brother), be it that everyone is trying to make it to the same block party across town in Bed-Stuy.
What’s more to love: Black bisexual male MC, Black lesbian female MC, non-binary side character, MLM romance, f/f romance, mental health: anxiety rep, panic disorder, claustrophobia.
Published: Electric Monkey Books
Publication Date: June 22nd, 2021
Age Range: 13 – 18