This New York Best Times/Indie bestseller, Wings of Ebony, by debut author J. Elle, is a must read if you are someone who enjoyed The Hunger Games series and if you enjoyed reading the novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. But let me tell you, this is not the Rue from District 11. If anything, this is the Rue every little Black girl has been waiting for. This amazing fast paced, novel keeps readers on the edge of their seats.
The novel starts off with the protagonist, Rue, giving the readers a glimpse of a traumatic event that transpired a year ago to date. Rue returns to East Row, the place she used to call home. Immediately, this detailed imagery pulls you into the book and Rue’s world. You start asking tons of questions like:
Why did she leave her home?
Where has she been for the past year?
Who is her sister and is she okay?
Why wasn’t she allowed to come back home?
Right away we learn that Rue’s mom was killed in cold blood leaving Rue and her sister all alone. Sadly, many teens can relate to losing a mother or another loved one, and bearing the burden and responsibility for their family. Those teens can cling to and take solace in this part of Rue, knowing that they’re not alone in that struggle. A particular trait of Rue’s that I admire is her perseverance. The way that Rue is so resilient and strong no matter what happens to her, is something many teens can relate to. Those who feel as though they can’t continue to bear the weight of the world will feel seen and be inspired. You could go through hell and back, figuratively and literally like Rue, but you can still push through and not allow all of that to keep you suffocated and locked down.
Wings of Ebony speaks to my teenage soul. The way that this book depicts perseverance, showing how Rue kept her cool no matter the situation, is inspiring. It’s inspiring because not many people possess the ability to keep calm and not freak out, especially when they are aware of danger and they’re just kids, but this book will show you that even though you’re a teenager you can be as resistant and strong as Rue.
When talking about magic, usually people think fairytale, and fairytales are notoriously told from a white person’s perspective. That is not Wings of Ebony. This story is pure Black Girl Magic. Many of the book’s themes include; perseverance, family, the importance of friendship, social inequality, and racism. The theme that resonates with me the most is the importance of friendship as shown between Rue and Bri. Rue, with the help of her super genius best friend, Bri, single handedly saved so many lives and she helped Rue tap into and understand their magic to its full potential. During the course of the novel we see that real friendship is allyship. And while you don’t have to be from the same culture to be true friends–you have to be willing to see the world through someone’s perspective.
Because this book goes in and out of reality and fantasy, it always keeps your attention. The main characters in Wings of Ebony are indeed teenagers. While reading, you will understand some very important life lessons about family and your community, not in an obvious way, but in a way that teens will recognize and respect. Wings of Ebony gives you that leap of faith that there is hope for your world and you are literally able to create change and do so much better.
This overall message of this book is so important to me. It teaches you that you can do what Rue does in terms of using your own “magic” by tapping into your spirituality. Through practicing spirituality and learning about how to heal generational trauma and breaking the cycle, you’ll find that you have that power within you and you can bring it out in other people. Although they may not exactly be the same powers that Rue has, it creates a reality where this “fantasy” world can come to life and you’ll be able to see the real magic unfold as you make a difference day by day.
Overall, I rate this book a 5/5 and I would recommend that teens read this book. It isn’t too wordy or long, it’s very easy to go through, and it leaves a big impact on your perspective about being able to heal and help your community.
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
By Jay Bryant, Senior, University High School
*The article was created in partnership with the Project Lit program at University High School in Newark, NJ.