Book Review: The Black Queen

THE BLACK QUEEN | Jumata Emill
01.31.2023 | Delacorte Press
Rating: 4/5 stars


Nova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating. Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it’s her legacy–her family has worn the crown for generations. 

Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition. No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend. For Duchess, Nova’s crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova–and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. Everyone loved Nova. And sometimes, love is exactly what gets you killed.

The Black Queen is a captivating YA thriller told through alternating narratives from Tinsley and Duchess as they each investigate what happened to Nova. I loved getting to know each of these characters and their very different backgrounds. Emill does an incredible job of truly rounding out these characters and allowing the reader to not only get to know them as individuals, but get a feel of their families and how their upbringing and personal experiences have shaped them as people. 

There is a lot to unpack in this story from racism to the examination of social commentary to societal pressures to family dynamics. Emill somehow manages to satisfyingly incorporate it all together into an addictive read.  While I did end up guessing the truth fairly early on, I was still very invested in the progress and details that Emill wove together.

TW: This book touches on some sensitive topics in both minor and more major ways. As always, I recommend checking out a full listing on Storygraph before picking up a copy.

A huge thank you to Books Forward PR for my gifted copy!

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