Book Review: The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
Publisher’s Book Description:
New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America’s history and legacy of racism in this suspenseful YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom.
When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation . . . Maddy did it.
An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.
After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life.
But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret . . . one that will cost them all their lives.
Before I begin my review, I want to acknowledge that I am a white woman reading this book and it tackles topics of racism that I hope I address with sensitivity and the importance that this topic deserves. Systemic racism is real, it is a horrific current that has run through our country for its entirity, and it causes very real generational and current trauma to far too many of our fellow humans.
There is no one consistently doing YA horror/thrillers with the same force and impact as Tiffany D. Jackson. No one. THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD is in part an homage to Carrie by Stephen King (a book and movie that terrified me as a child), but this contemporary take looks at topics like racism and colorism through that lens.
This is edge of your seat reading that asks you to open your eyes to things like sundown towns and systemic racism and it’s all inspired unfortunately by real life events. I recently heard Jackson discussing at the SLJ Teen Live event that one of the reasons that it is framed as a podcast is that she needed readers to understand that they are not talking about some distant past, but about the here and now. Many people like to pretend that after the Civil Rights movement we have solved the problem of racism, but there are still towns that hold separate white and Black proms, a thing that happens in this book. Here’s a news story from 2020 discussing the issue in the state of Georgia. This book is not about the racism of the past, but about the systemic racism that still flows through so many of our towns today and the ways that it continues to impact the lives of young people. It’s about personal trauma and generational trauma and trying to survive in a time and a place and a world that is very much designed to make it difficult for you to survive.
In addition to discussing outright racism, Jackson also talks about colorism within the Black community and the idea of passing. Though I am familiar with these concepts, I hadn’t really read a YA novel that tackled those topics head on (though that doesn’t mean more don’t exist, it just means that I, a white woman, haven’t read it centered in a YA novel before). The opening scenes that address this topic were heartbreaking to me, as a reader; the anxiety that the main character felt and they way that it permeated every very thoughtful action she took really emphasized the ways in which racism can – and does – traumatize people, generationally. So much powerful character development happens in this book and it takes you to places you never expected to go, another staple of the Tiffany D. Jackson novel.
This book is full of so much substance that makes you think and feel, taking you from heartbreak to horror and back again. From racism to family dynamics to classism and more, it’s such a rich contemplation of very real issues that our society continues to wrestle with. And then to kind of wrap it into this already existing and well known horror framework and just twist it all just enough to make it new and different, to elevate it, to bring a classic horror story into a new generation of readers in such a powerful and meaningful way – just wow. I know saying just wow is probably not the highest form of meaningful literary criticism, but it is such masterful storytelling. I continue to be blown away by each and every Tiffany D. Jackson novel, by her craftsmanship and her ability to terrify, haunt, and surprise me. She gives me exactly what I want in a thriller and never fails to impress and satisfy.
And what a fun exercise it would be for a teen reader to read both this and Carrie by Stephen King to compare and contrast and discuss.
Highly recommended. This book comes out September 6th from Katherine Tegen Books.
Filed under: Book Reviews
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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