I’m Not Dying with You Tonight by Kimberly Jones – ⭐⭐⭐
For a totally wild ride through a normal town gone mad, for reluctant allies forced to help each other when no one else will, for race relations sprinkled throughout, for a story that starts with a bang and only gets more intense from there, for teachers looking for conversation starters about racial issues in America
Lena has her killer style, her awesome boyfriend, and a plan. She knows she’s going to make it big. Campbell, on the other hand, is just trying to keep her head down and get through the year at her new school. When both girls attend the Friday-night football game, what neither expects is for everything to descend into sudden mass chaos. Chaos born from violence and hate. Chaos that unexpectedly throws them together. They aren’t friends. They hardly understand the other’s point of view. But none of that matters when the city is up in flames, and they only have each other to rely on if they’re going to survive the night.
I mean honestly this book was its own kind of terrifying. The escalation happened so quickly, and yet the inciting incidents for it were something I could easily see occurring at so many schools. I didn’t have to wait long for the action to start, but once it started it didn’t stop. Right up until the last chapters, the tension was carried the whole way through. I was so clenched up while reading this, so on edge wondering what was going to happen. I literally delayed dinner and made my S.O. wait so I could finish the book, because even the last pages were critical.
The disparity between Lena’s experiences as a black woman and Campbell’s as a white woman are so stark in here. It would almost be funny if it weren’t so painfully accurate and common. It’s most obvious in their reactions when the cops show up, and seeing Campbell slowly start to understand why Lena absolutely freaks out when cops show up speaks to the ways they start to connect, despite the chaos.
It’s impressive how much Jones and Segal managed to pack into what felt like a short read. Their research and interviews with riot police and riot survivors made this sucked me in and felt like I was running alongside Lena and Campbell.
And then of course, there was one line towards the end that really hit me in the gut: Campbell thinks to herself that “Black” is such a threatening name. And I don’t know if this was even intended to be a “racial awareness” moment or not, and that makes it all the more sour and potent to me. Why is the name or word Black so loaded with meaning? Our associations filter how we hear everything, and for Black to be a threatening name is to color it through the lens of the media covering only the riots, and not the peaceful protests.