There is nothing played-out or reductive about this genre-bending debut, which is equal parts memoir and high fantasy. Brown has written a guidebook of survival and wonder…Brown's greatest gift is evoking intimacy, and as she delicately but firmly snatches the reader's attention, we are allowed to see this girl of multitudes and her neighborhood of contradictions in full and specific detail. Stereotypes, like the bitter myth of the strong black woman, wither on the page.
The New York Times Book Review - Karen Valby
Debut author Brown’s quasi-memoir blends magical realism with a coming-of-age story in this mold-breaking novel. Echo is a black teen growing up on Cleveland’s East Side, where adults worship the “white rock.” She is also learning how to control her newfound powers as a “quantum wizard”; shortly after her crush, Jessie, is in a tragic accident, Echo begins to see a veil that covers people. Soon, she learns that she’s not the only wizard: Elena, a gay Muslim girl who attends her mostly white middle school, discovers her own abilities, and the two become friends. In chapters organized as lessons in wizardry, Echo relays the triumphs and tragedies of her childhood, smoothly skipping across time to relate disparate moments atop one another. Using wizardry as a way to explore making something out of nothing and developing the skills it takes to survive traumatic events, Brown’s novel gives readers a potent glimpse into heartbreaking, unjust experiences and profound resilience in the face of wrongs perpetrated both systemically and interpersonally. The novel never shies from tough subject matter (drug addiction, sexual assault), at the same time deftly integrating magically realistic components and allegory into contemporary scenes. Ages 14–up. (Jan.)
Gr 9 Up—Echo Brown is a dark-skinned African American girl who comes from an impoverished and dysfunctional family on the East Side of Cleveland. Her mother, April (Aprah), is addicted to crack, stemming from childhood sexual abuse and an accidental tragedy. Her stepfather, Ed, is addicted to alcohol. Her brothers, Rone and Dre, are addicted to the streets. To cope with intergenerational pain and trauma, Echo believes she and her mother are wizards. With the help of other female wizards, she transfers from one portal to another in a rich, white school on the West Side to finally heal and break generational curses. Debut author Brown crafts this empowering autobiographical novel fused with magical realism and allegory. She provides lessons of wizard training in every chapter. Readers, especially sci-fi/fantasy fans, will be mesmerized by the intersections in her parallel universes. Brown brilliantly charts her journey from a victim of her circumstances to a freshman at Dartmouth College. She succeeds against the odds of racism, colorism, poverty, sexual abuse, addiction, depression, sexism, and misogyny as an African American girl. Readers will appreciate the power of literature as a healing tool with the nods to Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Alice Walker. VERDICT This revelatory YA book deserves space on bookstore and library shelves for its healing power for all readers to break the chains of intergenerational pain and trauma.— Donald Peebles, Brooklyn Public Library
A graphic look at the magical black girls who are often forgotten or fetishized.
Echo is a dark-skinned black girl who learns very early that life is not fair and that she must dig deep within herself to rise above life's worst circumstances. Echo is also a wizard, just like her mother, a crack addict who is often checked out of her children's lives. Echo's brothers stray to the streets while Echo navigates the hardships of the East Side of Cleveland, Ohio, while attending school on the privileged West Side. On her journey, beginning from the age of 6, Echo relays the lessons she learns while traveling between different human and magical worlds. With the help of other wizards, all of whom are women, she learns the importance of cultivating the darkness that surrounds her while holding on to the light within. Debut author Brown delves into heavy and uncomfortable topics including drug abuse, sexual violence, depression, poverty, intergenerational trauma, and the work required to end cycles that seem cell deep. The text transitions between different times in Echo's life, but the prose is smooth, as each break seamlessly transports readers to the next moment as if it's a continuation of the same thought. Through Echo's lessons, readers learn what it's like to persist despite hopelessness, survive in a world propelled by oppressive and exploitative systems, and cope with feelings of connection and disconnection.
A much-needed story. Just brilliant.
(Magical realism. 15-adult)
A NYPL Best Book of 2020 A NYPL Staff Pick A Book Riot Best Book of the Year Teen Vogue Recommended Read Publishers Weekly Anti-Racist Reading List Selection Winner of The Word's Rishi Award A CCBC Book of the Week A 2021 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List Selection A YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults List Selection "[An] empowering autobiographical novel fused with magical realism and allegory . . . with the nods to Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Malcolm X, and Alice Walker. This revelatory YA book deserves space on bookstore and library shelves for its healing power for all readers to break the chains of intergenerational pain and trauma."— School Library Journal, starred review "Brown has written a guidebook of survival and wonder.... Brown's greatest gift is evoking intimacy, and as she delicately but firmly snatches the reader's attention, we are allowed to see this girl of multitudes and her neighborhood of contradictions in full and specific detail." — The New York Times "A graphic look at the magical black girls who are often forgotten or fetishized. Through Echo's lessons, readers learn what it's like to persist despite hopelessness, survive in a world propelled by oppressive and exploitative systems, and cope with feelings of connection and disconnect. A much-needed story. Just brilliant."— Kirkus Reviews " A meditation on resilience, I fell completely under the spell of this book and its community of brilliantly drawn characters. I need more Echo Brown books." S.K. Ali, Black Girl Unlimited is an astonishing blend of riveting storytelling and moving literary artistry. New York Times-bestselling author " Steeped in allegory, magical realism, and stunning imagery, this story of what we take with us and what we leave behind marks the arrival of a bold new literary imagination." — Esquire " Brown’s prose is searingly beautiful and painful in its imagery . . . Echo is an unforgettable heroine, and her tale makes a compelling counterpart to Nikki Grimes’ memoir, Ordinary Hazards, or a first step toward Octavia Butler. " — The Bulletin "Brown’s novel deals with some very heavy themes including sexual violence, drug addiction, depression, and racism. However, it treats these themes and readers with care while uplifting both its main character and readers who may share Echo’s struggles. A treasure of a story that’s poignant, soulful, and inspiring."— Booklist ." — "This is a story of Black girl magic, trauma and healing, learning to save oneself, connection and forgiveness, and given and chosen family Book Riot In this arresting fictionalized account of the author’s life growing up in Cleveland, systemic racism and personal trauma have palpable weight. The magical realism underscores the impact of that trauma while also illuminating the vulnerabilities and especially the strength of Echo and others in her African American family and community." — " Cooperative Children’s Book Center The novel never shies from tough subject matter (drug addiction, sexual assault), at the same time deftly integrating magically realistic components and allegory into contemporary scenes."— "Brown’s quasi-memoir blends magical realism with a coming-of-age story in this mold-breaking novel. Publishers Weekly