I can’t remember exactly how I found I’m Not Dying with You Tonight (2019) by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones. It’s possible Amazon recommended it to me after I read The Hate U Give because it’s another young adult book that deals with race. Anyway, I love a good young adult novel, and it sounded intriguing, so I picked it up. One interesting aspect of this book is that it’s written by two women who became friends in a young adult writing community. One of them is black, one of them is white, and together they wrote the novel.
Campbell is white and just recently had to move to live with her father after her mother left the country for a job. Coming from a majority white high school in the Northeast, the urban (I can’t remember where this book takes place), majority black high school feels very foreign to her. Feeling abandoned, alone, and out of place, she’s very unhappy. Lena is black and is at home in her neighborhood. She’s popular and attractive and busy chasing after her boyfriend.
The entire book takes place over the course of one night. Lena is at the game with her best friend, enjoying some socializing before meeting up with her boyfriend. Campbell has not been socializing at all but was roped into working the concession stand by a teacher. Campbell and Lena’s football team is playing a white high school from across town. Near the end of the game, a fight breaks out, which turns into a riot. Lena and Campbell end up taking shelter in the concessions stand. When Lena’s phone dies, she becomes reliant on Campbell for communication, so the two stay together in order to fetch Campbell’s phone from the nearby classroom.
The riots only get worse, and eventually the police arrive to break it up. Campbell’s first instinct is to run towards the cops while Lena is intent on getting away from them. Because Campbell has lost her ride home, Lena and Campbell decide to stay together until she can get to her boyfriend’s location. The two begin to really rely on each other as circumstances change and worsen.
I thought this was a good book, especially for teenagers. Both Lena and Campbell make assumptions about the other, but they work well together and grow as the book progresses. The book hits on a lot of racial issues that are very relevant today, including police brutality. This book was also a quick, fast-paced, and satisfying read.
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