A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know The Boy in the Black Suit, by Jason Reynolds, a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, deals with death and grief. The death of a parent is a central focus of the book, and a teen begins work in a funeral home. Parents should be ready to discuss grief and different ways people cope with it.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Matt's mother died of breast cancer, and his father has turned to drinking heavily, leaving Matt alone to deal with his grief. Even his friends treat him differently. Matt uses his experience at his funeral home job to help him cope with the loss of his mother. Just before he begins his new job, he meets someone who has lost even more -- and is stronger than he could have ever imagined. Can Matt find joy again with the help of the strange girl with whom he has so much in common?
Is it any good?
This page-turner is an emotional roller coaster ride of sorrow, grief, friendship, hope, and joy. It explores a kid's worst fear -- the death of a parent -- and walks with 17-year-old Matt on his journey, taking a nuanced and layered approach that is raw, real, and oddly welcome. So often, books that deal with grieving young people show kids going through long periods of acting out until they reach a quick and tidy resolution. Author Jason Reynolds leaves that overdone approach behind and shows teens reacting with the same complex emotional response to death that any adult would. One can argue that Matt is even better equipped to deal with his grief because he has yet to form damaging habits that often take over a person's life during times of sorrow.
It's refreshing to see a contemporary novel that deals with male feelings in a way that doesn't reduce them to either overly macho or fantastically sensitive stereotypes. Reynolds shows multiple generations of men being open with their emotions and feeling OK with communicating those feelings with people close to them. Parents and teens will love this book's quick pace, complex character portrayals, and positive but realistic story line.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about coping with painful issues. Do you have someone you can always talk to? How have you worked through pain and loss in your life?
How does this book compare with other novels you've read that have grieving characters? What is it about grief that makes it a compelling element in a story?
Families can also discuss the importance of getting to know people instead of judging them on their looks. On Matt's first trip to the homeless shelter, he expects people to behave a certain way, but they surprise him. Have you ever judged a book by its cover, so to speak?
- Author: Jason Reynolds
- Genre: Coming of Age
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, High School
- Book type: Fiction
- Publisher: Atheneum
- Publication date: January 6, 2015
- Publisher's recommended age(s): 12 - 18
- Number of pages: 272
- Available on: Paperback, Nook, Hardback, iBooks, Kindle
- Award: Coretta Scott King Medal and Honors
- Last updated: October 30, 2020
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