Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson: An ARC Review: This Will Stay With Me For A While


Let Me Hear A Rhyme by Tiffany D. Jackson
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In the next striking and vibrant standalone novel by the critically acclaimed author of Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, Tiffany D. Jackson tells the story of three Brooklyn teens who plot to turn their murdered friend into a major rap star by pretending he is still alive.

Biggie Smalls was right. Things done changed. But that doesn’t mean that Quadir and Jarrell are okay letting their best friend Steph’s tracks lie forgotten in his bedroom after he’s killed—not when his beats could turn any Bed-Stuy corner into a celebration, not after years of having each other’s backs.

Enlisting the help of Steph’s younger sister, Jasmine, Quadir and Jarrell come up with a plan to promote Steph’s music under a new rap name: The Architect. Soon, everyone in Brooklyn is dancing to Steph’s voice. But then his mixtape catches the attention of a hotheaded music rep and—with just hours on the clock—the trio must race to prove Steph’s talent from beyond the grave.

Now, as the pressure—and danger—of keeping their secret grows, Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine are forced to confront the truth about what happened to Steph. Only each has something to hide. And with everything riding on Steph’s fame, together they need to decide what they stand for before they lose everything they’ve worked so hard to hold on to—including each other.
The young adult genre has not yet seen a novel the likes of Let Me Hear A Rhyme, and whoever signed on for this title knew what they’re doing.
Let Me Hear A Rhyme brought forth memories long since buried. It felt like someone ripped these pages right out of my childhood. Jackson knows, and she gets it.

If LMHAR, were out when I was a teenager, I would have devoured it, in the same manner, I devoured my fifty cent snack: a bag of chips and a quarter juice.

LMHAR is what Urban Fiction wishes it could be. This book is not Urban Fiction—it lacks a certain “urban fiction” quality. (That’s not a bad thing.) But, it would have definitely been UF teen, if it were a genre. I would’ve snatched it off the bookseller's table on 125th (the only place to find books fully “black”, at least at one point) tightly gripping the plastic-covered novel—eager to read it.

Instead of sneaking my mother’s copy of True To The Game, well before I knew the “game” I would have eagerly grabbed this book. LMHAR fills in the gap; the void between: “Too old for Harry Potter, and too young for Urban Fiction.” It does for young black teens what books like The Hate U Give and its comparable titles have yet to accomplish. It took the streets it was unaware of, or afraid to portray and told the stories I would have easily related to. The black experience is all-encompassing, but neglecting the “streets,” and hip-hop neglects the stories that need telling.

Quadir, Jarrell, and Jasmine could have easily been my friends. 

Steph would have hit it big one day. He could rap better than the best of them. But, his life was tragically cut short—leaving behind two grieving best friends, and a grieving sister.

One day it hits them. Steph story is not over, and together they hatch a plan to make Steph the star he deserved to be; post-mortem. It’s genius, but how long can you pull off pretending someone’s alive that’s now dead?

This book is absolute literary goodness. Stunningly written, unwittingly relatable, and outright good literature.

Jackson told a story that wasn’t necessarily new but has never been told in the capacity with which she told it. She not only did Brooklyn justice, but she also did justice for boys like, Steph who lose their lives too soon, for little to no reason. And for the black girls, who didn’t fit in. The ones who were a little “weird,” the ones who felt just a little outside of “blackness.” The expectation being you had to be a certain way, to be considered fully black.

 I loved that Jasmine was pro-black and very in tune with her roots. I loved that Jackson let her wear her natural hair with pride. Edges and afro-puffs on fleek!

It’s stories like these that allow us to see the unseen. Jackson is a master at that. 

My heart and black body are full. I’m filled to the brim with black pride and joy. This novel did what needed to be done.

The characters practically leaped off the page. Jackson used these characters to take internalized black issues and struggles and put a bright light on them; staying true to the message without being preachy or holier than thou in the delivery.

Kids from this generation will get to know what the 90s to the tip of the 2000s was like from an authentic place/voice. I have a serious case of nostalgia and will need to refer to my 90s playlist to satiate my current need to revisit this time period.

Let Me Hear A Rhyme is a stunning, gritty and pulsating novel that does exactly what it sets out to do and it does it one hundred percent right.

Buy this book. It will not disappoint you. 
If you need me, I’ll be looking for my Sergio Valente’s.

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