The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds


Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away. — [X]

So, I don’t know if this one counts as a recommendation for reluctant readers. I was going to do a “If You Like This TV Show, Try Reading X” type post, but given recent events I think I’ll just push that one back a week. Sorry. I just don’t feel like it. Instead, I want to talk to you about this beautiful, beautiful book by Jason Reynolds.

This novel, as you may have gathered from the summary, deals with death and grief and how differently each person grieves. For Matt, dealing with his mother’s death means immersing himself into the funerary business. As long as he doesn’t actually have to touch the bodies– something he is quick to make sure of before accepting the job offer– Matt is there for the set up and the clean up. Except, he’s also there for the actual funerals. He sits in the back and watches as loved ones speak about the deceased. He watches as they speak through sobs or smile watery smiles and it makes Matt feel not so alone in his grief. Things change, of course, when he attends the funeral where he meets Lovey, a pretty girl with impressively dry eyes. As their relationship develops, we see how Matt’s willingness to face other people’s grief made it easier to ignore his own. Being with Love, however, has the opposite effect.

The Boy in the Black Suit is such an easy novel to get into. (Though, to be honest, I was kind of biased in the book’s favour thanks to the perfect epigraph*.) By the end of the first chapter, you get a solid idea of what Matt’s life is like now that his mother has passed away, and you want to know more. Also, the characters are all so brilliantly written! Honestly, the entire novel could have been this whole array of characters hanging around in somebody kitchen and I would have read it with utter glee. (Not to say that the actual story is boring. It isn’t. At all. I read it all in two sittings– which rarely happens with a non-fantasy book.) Matt with his numb melancholy and surprising humour is one of my favourite male YA characters now. I loved seeing the various friendships Matt had formed with people in his neighbourhood and I especially loved scenes with his best friend Chris. I also really enjoyed watching Matt and Lovey’s relationship evolve. They have one of the better written relationships in YA: adorable, awkward, and not insta-love. And by the by, Lovey– despite what the Goodreads summary makes her sound like– is not an unfeeling robot with a dash of quirky. She’s so well-written. As is Matt’s mother, who may be dead but whose voice is strong and alive and pervades every pivotal part of the book, be it through Matt’s memories or through her enthusiastic recipes.

Basically, if you’re tired/sad/happy/need your brain to shut up for just one minute, this is the book for you. Honestly, I think this is just the book for this Friday. I wish I hadn’t returned it to the library. Definitely recommended. <3

*A verse from Laura Mvula’s “Sing to the Moon“. *sigh* I could listen to Laura Mvula all day. If you haven’t heard anything by her, start here and here and buy the whole damn album.