If you liked “The Hate U Give” and “Dear Martin” (and you should read both of those books if you haven’t already), you’ll like “Anger is a Gift”. What they are are essentially “issue books”, but good. Remember what “issue books” in the YA genre used to be like? Alternately melodramatic and saccharine, and inevitably preachy, I would groan every time I started a book on a topic related to social justice and realized it was meant to be more educational than well-written. You could practically hear this happening as you read them:
Anyway, this is not that kind of book. Oshiro (of the very good blog Mark Does Stuff) takes the time to create fully realized characters with complete personalities beyond their various identities: a character isn’t just “the genderqueer character” or “the Mom character”, a fault that can be hard to avoid in YA books) that you want to spend time with. The main social issue addressed in the book, police violence and oppression of black communities) does not feel shoehorned in, and larger facts that relate to this issue are presented smoothly into the narrative. Shocking moments feel truly shocking: a number of times I found myself covering my mouth or tearing up while reading. Oshiro also presents a reading list at the end of the book for those who might want to know more, which I hope younger readers take advantage of, though I’m sure this book will be contested by many a jerk before it gets into the hands of the kids who could most benefit from it.
All of that being said, I will note that other issues brought up in the book DO sometimes feel shoehorned in: discussions of sexism and transphobia are left to one-off mentions by ancillary characters. This may have been on purpose so that the characters facing those oppressions were the ones talking about it, but it did feel a bit awkward at times. However, I can forgive this entirely because I’m just glad the issues are being addressed at all in a YA novel.
Check this out if you can. It’s not saying anything many of us haven’t already said, but it’s saying it well, and that’s important too.