Review: Black Girl Unlimited

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Review for "Black Girl Unlimited" by Echo Brown (2020)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Trigger Warnings: sexual abuse, sexual assault/rape, suicide ideation

Echo is a Black girl growing up on the East Side of Cleveland in the late 90’s. Although she is academically gifted and goes to a special school, her family life is in turmoil. Her father is an alcoholic and her mother is crack addict, wounded by deep trauma in her past. Her brothers fare no better, caught up in street life and criminal activity. Despite the dysfunction around her, Echo learns early on in her life that she is a wizard and possesses a collection of psychic abilities that she’s inherited from her mother. Echo’s abilities include bending time and space, predicting the future, astral projection, the ability to see people’s ‘veils’ (a psychic kind of ‘darkness’ that invades their being), and perform miracles (hypnosis/mental suggestion, etc).

The novel follows Echo on her journey as a wizard from age 6 until she goes off to college. Each chapter is a lesson she learns along with the help of other women wizards about living with the darkness and becoming a better person. Despite the fact that I really liked this book, there were some issues here. Although I was able to suspend disbelief and accept Echo’s identity as a wizard, the text transitions between the past and present during certain scenes where the ‘magic’ was taking place was a bit hard to follow, with breaks occurring in paragraphs and picking up elsewhere as if it was the same thought. Cool technique, just not executed as well as it could have been.

Another issue was the over-burdening of the text with soooo many peripheral characters. Brown’s main focus seems to be sexual abuse, religion, drugs, and colorism. However, there’s a myriad of characters that pop in and out of the book that seem to represent other issues and didn’t add much to the story. There’s a friend who’s a Black Panther who spouts Black nationalist rhetoric on a whim, a Muslim friend who wears a hijab, the hostile, middle class husband of her mentor, and a gay Asian friend who’s just kinda…there.

Some of the more graphic scenes made this book very tough to read but I appreciate Brown for writing about them. I’m not sure how the publisher is marketing this, but I would not consider this a book for YA readers. Older adolescents and adults are the more ideal audience here. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone under 18 unless they’re super mature.

Overall, I really really liked this. 4 stars.

4 thoughts on “Review: Black Girl Unlimited”

  1. I was wondering who the audience would be. It looks like a YA novel, but the part about being a wizard sounds like a MG novel (Harry Potter comes to mind, of course). I hate when authors include a ton of “just there” characters, but the only sin worse is when they all have names — first AND last names being the final, final straw.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And see…that’s the thing. It confused me at first because I’m looking at the title referring to wizardry and I’m thinking “hmm, seems like a YA.” But the more I read it though, I was like uhh…this is not YA–it’s very adult. Not like it really matters, but as a educator who looks at every damn thing, this puzzles me.

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  2. The sounds like a mixed bag. I appreciate the topics of discussion the author chooses to tackle, but some of the other elements and characters sound like they might get in the way of a clear message. The wizarding aspect seems an odd choice too. I’m interested though. Great review. I’ll have to consider this one for later!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, I definitely agree. Often I read books and there’s so much going on, like the author wants to pile on so much in one book. Abuse isn’t enough, it’s gotta be drugs + racism + health issues + about 10 other things and pretty soon you’re like “this is too much”! SMH

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