March 7th, 2021 by Karen
In The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert, Alberta has things pretty good: She’s an amazing surfer, she has two actually cool artistic dads, and she has a best friend she’s grown up with — whose older brother always gives them free ice cream at his job at the local scoop shop. But being the only Black student in her grade (out of only four Black students at school), Alberta sometimes feels like she doesn’t quite fit in. Finally, though, that’s about to change! A Black family is taking over the bed and breakfast across the street from Alberta’s house, and she’s thrilled to learn that the daughter is exactly her age. Hello, instant friends for life, right? Well, not exactly…
It turns out that Edie and Alberta don’t have a ton in common. Edie dresses like a goth, she’s into Victorian novels, and she misses her old home in New York City — which she is constantly comparing to their small town. But despite their differences, Edie is nice. And she immediately understands Alberta’s experiences dealing with microaggressions from Nicolette — their classmate, neighbor, and Alberta’s biggest surfing competition. Unfortunately for Alberta, her BFF has always been quick to overlook Nicolette’s mean remarks, and now Alberta is starting to feel a distance grow between them.
That makes it the perfect time for Alberta and Edie to dive into a mystery! They discover a box of old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast, and they are soon sucked into investigating the identity and story behind the writer. Who was she, why did she leave the journals behind, and what became of her? Edie and Alberta are determined to find out!
But life doesn’t stop just because there’s an intriguing mystery at hand. Alberta’s also dealing with friend drama, crush drama, school drama — and on the plus side, a lovely visit from her birth mom. To me, that’s what makes this book so great: It’s got so much going on, just like in reality. This could have been a one-dimensional story — a mystery OR a realistic fiction book about friendship and family OR a book about Alberta’s experiences with race and racism. But just as there are many interconnected parts to our identities and lives, there are multiple layers to this book. My only disappointment was getting to the end and having to leave the world of Ewing Beach and Alberta’s community!
I’d recommend this book for fans of The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson, Last in a Long Line of Rebels by Lisa Lewis Tyre, Things Too Huge to Fix by Saying Sorry by Susan Vaught, Saving Kabul Corner by N.H. Senzai, and Absolutely Truly by Heather Vogel Frederick.
Have you already read The Only Black Girls in Town or any of the other books I mentioned above? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!
In the book, Edie moves from New York City to California — which is the reverse of Karen’s life! As a proud New Yorker these days, Karen really sympathizes with Edie’s homesickness for Brooklyn. To be honest, Karen would never want to leave NYC!