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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus
Young adult

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

Debut

We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Junauda Petrus, on your first book!

by Junauda Petrus

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Quick take

A soul-nurturing love story about forging friendships, building romance, forgiving family, and finding yourself.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Romance

    Romance

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_MultipleNarrators

    Multiple viewpoints

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_LGBTQ

    LGBTQ+ themes

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Sad

    Sad

Synopsis

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels—about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

Audre

"Yuh fas' and arrow and sensual and mango,” Queenie tells me, “so, Audre, please put some molasses in yuh feet for dis walk, it ain’t supposed to go fas’,” she says, as we walk through the woods. I is crying so hard, my body is shudder and breath and wet with tears. My glasses fog up and I wipe them with my shirt so I can see through them and see the back of my grandma, my guide. My heart feeling like it get bus’ up for calling somebody mother a jagabat.

Queenie is pure light and sweetness and obsidian skin. She smell like spicy earth things, like sandalwood and cinnamon and dirt itself. She is strong and warrior, moving through the trees like a river, carving her way through mud, elegant, dark and slow like the molasses she say we should invoke for this journey. She have on a long white dress, with a white scarf wrap around she short white hair and shoulders like a woman in prayer. The woods are a green and quiet bush between her house and ocean that I know very well. Too well. I have cover every part of them bush, with the bottom of my feet and the eyes of my soul since I young.

Queenie got silver bangles ’round she wrist like broken Saturn rings, jingling each of her movements through the forest. She moves with her walking stick made of bamboo and mahogany and wrapped tight in thin copper, rose quartz, and citrine, so it could be strong and light and absorb power. She takes the lead on our journey and let me cry in her wake.

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Why I love it

I get so emotional, baby… every time I think about this book! Why YES, it is absolutely necessary to use Whitney Houston lyrics to describe how The Stars and the Blackness Between Them made this queer music-loving ‘90s kid feel.

Audre, a 16 year old raised in Trinidad, is in love with the pastor's daughter. But just as they begin to explore their new love, they are discovered by Audre's deeply religious mother, who banishes Audre to Minneapolis to live with her father. Upon her arrival, Audre is confronted with a vastly different life—one with an unfamiliar parent and a culture and place she's never known. Luckily her father introduces her to Mabel, who helps her navigate her new life in America, and before long, the two fall in love. But this beautiful queer Black-girls-in-love story takes a heart-plunging turn into the realities of life when Mabel receives devasting news about her health.

With vivid characters and a gripping story, this book was a cosmic, emotional, and musical journey. I won't be forgetting this story or MABRE (Mabel/Audre) any time soon. In fact, you can find my singing "I Wanna Dance with Somebody" while re-reading this book and shedding both happy and sad tears.

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Member ratings (614)

  • Morgan A.

    ST Johnsbury , VT

    I’m only 130 pages in at the moment, but this book has some of the most delicious language I’ve ever had the pleasure of laying my eyes on. You’ll feel the pulse of Trinidad course through your veins.

  • Liz A.

    Westport, NY

    I didn’t know how much I needed this book. Petrus makes it easy to slip into another world. The layers beneath the romance are so powerful that it’s hard to put down. A great YA novel and so relevant.

  • Shelsea D.

    Helena, MT

    What a gorgeous, empowering debut! Poetic, profound, & deeply spiritual, this is the queer black love story the world needed! This heartbreaking, magical story is destined to be a classic. I loved it!

  • Daphne W.

    Los Angeles, CA

    Perfect book for the young adult in your life! Fun for the not so young too! Finding yourself, loving yourself (and family) and even accepting things no matter how we feel is growth! Read this book!

  • natasha n.

    tustin, CA

    I see this book as almost a love letter. It shines light on what every day looks like for two queer Black females who find each other and hold tight to how love made them feel seen, heard, and alive.

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