• The Good: A present, palpable, grand, but highly grounded and intimate novella
  • The Bad: More literary than scifi; more poetry than story
  • The Literary: Great literary addition to the Black Lives conversation

Ella is just a kid, but she struggles to control her powers in a world where no one understands her. When she nearly kills her mother with her telekinetic abilities, Ella leaves her home and her little brother Kev to learn about her powers in a place where she won’t hurt anyone. With his sister gone, Kev hangs out more on the streets and is eventually arrested for being a young black man. While he’s in prison, Ella visits Kev both in person and supernaturally.

Born during the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Kev is a personification of the violence and institutionalized racism that black people have faced for hundreds of years in America. As a child, he’s bright and hopeful, but as a teen, he learns to distrust the faces supposed to protect him, and his life quickly spirals out of control. Even in prison he can’t escape the cycle of violence. I love how this short book is at once personal and tactile, but manages to capture generations of systemic pain. It’s as if Kev’s life has been laid out before him, his choices so limited at birth that he’s fulfilling his only possible destiny.

Though this is technically a scifi, Ella’s powers are never defined or fully investigated, but instead serve as supernatural representation of education, leaving home, touching the past, breaking the generational cycle, and eventually burning it all down to rise again from the ashes. Although the character arcs are limited, there is a switch. When they were children, Ella was cautious while Kev was bold. But as Ella’s knowledge and power grow, Kev begins to prefer a small quiet life without controversy. This dystopia highlights not what may come to be, but what has already come to pass.

Recommended as a quick impactful literary read (with a touch of scifi) about the black experience in America.