Thank you to Marisol Folks and the HarperCollins Canada Influencer program for NetGalley access to the eARC of One of the Good Ones by Maika & Maritza Moulite. This was the first time I received a widget outside of blog tour commitments, which is quite exciting. That said, this has not influenced my opinion. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
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About the Book
One of the Good Ones
by Maika & Maritza Moulite
Published 5 January 2021
by Inkyard Press, HarperCollins Teen
Genre: YA Contemporary, Mystery, #OwnVoices, LGBTQIA+
Page Count: 384
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The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.
ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
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My Rating: 4 Stars
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Teen YouTube influencer and rights activist Kezi Smith has been murdered, and BLM groups are raising her up with the likes of Breonna Taylor, “one of the good ones,” a perfect girl full of potential who was stolen from this world too soon. (Presented as one of two opposing stereotypes, opposite of one of the “bad ones,” the hopeless cases, the street kids destined for prison bars.) The way Kezi is distilled and bottled by the movement makes her sisters Happi and Genny feel robbed and that their sister is being dehumanized. Meanwhile, there’s an element of mystery to be solved surrounding the circumstances of Kezi’s death. What her sisters find will change everything.
One of the Good Ones is told in a split timeline fashion, both leading up to and after Kezi’s death, and POV is split between the sisters. We open on Happi’s point of view at a rally not long after Kezi’s murder, then jump to Kezi herself the day before she died, and move on from there. Each POV or time shift is clearly labelled, so readers reading in print or eBook should have no trouble keeping it all straight. I haven’t had the opportunity to listen to an audio recording, so I’m not sure how distinct the different sister voices will be in that case, but I do think they have been written to be unique in their own little ways. They are sisters, there will be similarities, but their individuality was captured well.
I must admit, as I write this review I’m still not entirely sure how to review this title. I found myself not wanting to pick it back up whenever I had to take a break (and thanks to motherhood with a toddler breaks were not optional), not because it isn’t a good book (it absolutely is) but because it’s so real, so honest. This book is making all the same black girl experience, anti-black racism, rights activism statements as recent YA books before it like A Song Below Water (which I was reminded of right away) but I think this one has a lot more success. To use A Song Below Water as an example, since I’ve already mentioned it, that book takes all these issues and puts them on a fantasy race that co-exists in modern-day USA. There’s a disconnect because the victims aren’t human, and the history of this sort of racism doesn’t easily graft onto what should be a potentially superior species. One of the Good Ones doesn’t hide in that way. These are human teenagers. These are the real issues and tragedies happening in the real world, to real people, and nothing has been sugar-coated or dressed up. That’s what made it hard to get through because it hurt to read something so honestly raw and devastating.
With that said, this book also lost me a bit for a similar reason to A Song Below Water. I don’t want to spoil the mystery element here by giving anything in the latter half of the plot away, so I’ll just say that as the surviving sisters investigate Kezi’s death, some things they find, some leads they chase, end up distracting from the police brutality, social injustice message that the first half sets up. While A Song Below Water distracted me from the message by making me question how all of this grafted onto what should have been the oppressor race in that alternate history, not the oppressed, One of the Good Ones distracted me from the social message entirely by morphing into a murder mystery Agatha Christie would be proud of, but kind of seems to have forgotten that it started out as a social commentary piece about the surreal and disorienting experience of being the family held up as a symbol for a social justice movement.
I do understand that this book was multiple things, though. It’s very much about how society perceives you, good or bad, where you fit, and “why can’t we just be human?” It takes a long, unflinching look at religion and patriarchy. It explores LGBTQIA experiences, being closeted, coming out, and reconciling one’s true self with family traditions and upbringing. For readers who are not marginalized (BIPOC, LGBTQIA, etc.) it teaches how to be an ally.
I absolutely loved the sister relationships in this book and how this tragedy drew the remaining sisters closer together. I also really loved how honestly it looked at being the survivors left behind in a murder situation (and this could be extrapolated to suicide or missing persons as well.) Everyone reacts differently. Some feel pushed into particular roles and expected to grieve in certain ways. I really felt the alienation of strangers trying to sympathize with Happi and her family, even though they can’t possibly relate.
Overall it’s a really good book with tough messages and a whole lot of emotion. I recommend this to absolutely everyone, and I recommend pushing through the emotionally draining parts. This is a story that needs to be heard. It’s worth it.
Meet the Authors
Maika Moulite is a Miami native and the daughter of Haitian immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Miami. When she’s not using her digital prowess to help nonprofits and major organizations tell their stories online, she’s sharpening her skills as a PhD student at Howard University’s Communication, Culture and Media Studies program. Her research focuses on representation in media and its impact on marginalized groups. She’s the eldest of four sisters and loves young adult novels, fierce female leads, and laughing.
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Maritza Moulite graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in women’s studies and the University of Southern California with a master’s in journalism. She’s worked in various capacities for NBC News, CNN, and USA TODAY. Maritza is a PhD student at the University of Pennsylvania exploring ways to improve literacy in under-resourced communities after being inspired to study education from her time as a literacy tutor and pre-k teacher assistant. Her favorite song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.
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