Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio. In her young life, she has experienced many heart-wrenching tragedies. She lives in severe poverty, her parents are addicted to the white rock and alcohol, and she was sexually assaulted. At school, Echo has friends: Jessie, the first boy she has feelings for; and Elena, an ambitious Muslim girl. Eventually, she transfers to the rich, mainly white school on the West Side, and a caring teacher becomes an important mentor. In the process, Echo realizes there is pain and struggle for everyone around her, as they are surrounded by a black veil of depression.
One day, she is enveloped by her own veil. As she fights to return to the light, she uncovers meaningful truths about her powers and herself. She’s not the type of wizard with a wand who chants spells. Her powers are allegorical. Echo, her mother, and her female friends are all magical. The influential black women in her life are wizards, surviving the pain and struggles of their circumstances yet still retaining their inner light. As Echo grows up and matures, she realizes that she wants to use her gift to help girls like her. She wants to guide them to overcome their poor circumstances and rise up into the light. This coming-of-age story reveals the raw reality of many black women’s lives.
BTSYA / Teen Reader (15):
I absolutely loved this book. Echo’s situation is similar to the many other young black women, but her journey is separate and compelling. Black Girl Unlimited is devastatingly real and talks about issues such as sexual abuse, drug addiction, colorism, racism, and more. There is such diversity in the characters and Brown really brings them to life. I was a little put off by Elena taking off her hijab at times because I feel the media needs to represent Muslim girls not taking off their religious veils.
Another thing to note. There are time and scene switches frequently that can confuse some readers. I believe Brown did this to show how a wizard has the ability to affect time and I actually understood everything, yet I can see how it can be disorientating. Lastly, Mrs. Delaney was annoyingly positive throughout the book. I feel she should have had more personality to her character. Other than those few criticisms, I was astounded by how much emotion and inspiration this book includes!
Brown’s writing is super poetic and beautiful. It’s also written in an extremely unique way that helps readers connect to the main characters. Echo’s magical powers are metaphors that have a greater meaning which gives depth to each scene. I adored the friendships and the romantic aspects, especially with Echo and Davante.
I believe this book could empower young black girls and educate many people on the issues of the black community. I recommend this book for those ages fourteen and up.
Vivid, poetic writing immerses readers in Echo's world from beginning to end.
Mature discussions about racism, white supremacy, discrimination, sexual abuse, and drug/alcohol abuse. There is profanity, negative stereotyping, ethnic and racial slurs, and violence.
This is a semi-autobiographical story presented within the framework of magical realism.
The story has elements of magic, yet it is also characterized as a "memoir." How would you and your reader characterize it? There are plenty of topics around which to start discussions: poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism. The book is set in the 1990s. What has changed? What has not?
14 and Up
13 and Up
Teen STAR Review Team, Be the Star You Are!™ . Reviewer's Age: 15
Buy. It is a powerful story. It is a coming-of-age story that is part memoir, part fantasy (magical realism).