Parents' Guide to

Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard

By Barbara Saunders, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Girl survives through smarts and magic in intense novel.

Book Echo Brown Emotions 2020
Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard Poster Image

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Intense, flawed, and beautiful, this book is recommended for mature readers only. Echo Brown is best known for her highly acclaimed one-woman show (Black Virgins Are Not for White Hipsters), and Black Girl Unlimited is her debut novel. That background contributes to the strengths and shortcomings in the novel. The contents of the book are very, very intense in a way that might feel safer in a theater performance, told by a performer whose physical presence serves as reassurance she survived. There are rapes, molestation, overdoses, a devastating car accident, stabbings. There are scenes of crack cocaine binges, with adults crawling on the floor to get the last of the powder. All of that is hard to read when you don't know where the story is going to go. In addition, the author uses a technique of interspersing one scene with another, jumping back and forth every few paragraphs. That is another solo performance approach that sometimes gets hard to follow on the page.

The magical realism element -- many of the women are wizards -- isn't quite convincing. It seems more like metaphor than world building. Ultimately, the book feels more like a personal essay than either a novel or a memoir: It is a chronological series of anecdotes that make a point but don't quite add up to a story with beginning, middle, and end. Yet the language is beautiful and poetic, with a strong writer's voice.

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