On My Bookshelf: The Boy In The Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

July 06, 2020

The basic plot from Amazon: Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this “vivid, satisfying, and ultimately upbeat tale of grief, redemption, and grace” (Kirkus Reviews) from the Coretta Scott King – John Steptoe Award–winning author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. Crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy stuff than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

The Boy In The Black Suit is another gem from Jason Reynolds about loss and love. Matt's mother has recently died from cancer and his father is drowning his sorrows in a bottle. It's Matt's final year of high school and he takes a part time job at the local funeral home, where he finds comfort in others grief. Read on for more of my review and ideas for classroom application.
Why I liked it: The Boy In The Black Suit is another gem from Jason Reynolds about loss and love. Matt's mother has recently died from cancer and his father is drowning his sorrows in a bottle. It's Matt's final year of high school and he takes a part time job at the local funeral home. Up to this point he has found his grief extremely isolating; his father is largely absent and his classmates at school treat him a little like a pariah.

But when Matt begins working at Mr. Ray's funeral home, he is able to take comfort in others' grief and feel a little less alone. He connects with Lovey, a young woman he had fallen for while considering applying for a job at a local fast food restaurant, and Lovey is also all too familiar with loss. The two begin to lean on each other as they discover things in life worth living for.

The beauty of this book is in the intersections of the characters' lives. The local drunk that Matt's father begins spending time with is Mr. Ray's brother. Mr. Ray's basketball career was ended by a now washed up man Matt serves at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving. The shooting Matt witnessed as a boy at his friend Chris's apartment complex was of Lovey's mother. I also appreciated the anti-gun message that is present in so many of Jason Reynolds's titles like Ghost, Long Way Down, and As Brave As You.

Classroom application: This title is appropriate for middle school and up. While the protagonist is in high school and the novel touches on violence and substance abuse, there isn't any content that would too mature or inappropriate. If your students enjoy this book, I would recommend any of Jason Reynolds's titles as their next read.

If your students are interested in reading more about gun violence, they may enjoy Enough Is Enough, a nonfiction title for teens.

If you are interested in purchasing a copy of The Boy In The Black Suit for yourself, you can find it on Amazon here.

Note: The Literary Maven is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.


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