Book review · contemporary · Young adult

Review: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

36142487I didn’t love this. I wanted to, I kind of expected to, but I didn’t – for more than one reason, but they all come back to the writing, which didn’t work for me.

Anger Is a Gift is a story about police violence and racism from a point of view I hadn’t seen yet: a gay black boy with anxiety whose school is every day more similar to a prison, with cops and metal detectors but no money for books.
This is a contemporary, but it works perfectly as a dystopian, except it’s real. I mean, the police kill innocent black people because they look ~suspicious~, and regularly beat up minors because they can. Not a problem at all.
This book didn’t shy away from showing the worst moments – horrifying, even if you know what you’re getting into.

I really liked the diversity. Not only this book has a mostly-black, mostly-queer cast, it also has multiple trans characters (of which one is non-binary), disabled characters, muslim characters, asexual characters, bisexual characters and it’s really intersectional. It tackles topics like transracial adoption and clueless “allies” as well.

As I said before, I didn’t like the writing. It felt detached, which is the worst thing that can happen to books that deal heavily with grief, and it had an infodump problem. Yes, a contemporary book full of infodumps, I didn’t think it was possible either, but here we are.
During the first chapters, when Moss is wandering around his neighborhood, the book tells us the names of the inhabitants, where they come from, what Moss thinks of them – for pages, and then we do not see most of them again. If you want to portray a diverse neighborhood, I’m sure you can find a less clumsy way to do it.
And that’s not the only time this happens! Moss has many friends at school, all of them introduced during the same scene, and we’re told how they’re like by the narration, in a “[character] was [x] and [y] and chose that name because [z]” way. Some never got more development than that, and I kept confusing them. The cast of characters is huge, but just Moss, his mother and his friend Esperanza are actually developed.

Also, what happens here isn’t bury your gays – most of the cast is queer and I saw it coming anyway – but I think it needs a warning. If you want to read this book, keep in mind that: there are many scenes of violence on (mostly) black people, a major queer character dies, a trans character is assaulted and a disabled character gets injured. Also, there are depictions of panic attacks.

My rating: ★★½

2 thoughts on “Review: Anger Is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

  1. I’d sampled the first chapters of this and ran into the same problems you did. But I was kind of hoping it would get better as the story settles. So colour me disappointed! I’m still wondering how a contemporary book about police violence, righteous anger, and grief manages to have dry prose.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a very monotonous book, both emotionally (everything is always Bad, no fun or light moments, especially in the second half) and writing-wise. It wasn’t terrible, it was just… flat, always the same, and didn’t get better.

      Like

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