Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink
Feiwel and Friends, 2021, 281 pages
Content Warnings: Racism, violence, references to the 1921 Tulsa Massacre
About the Author: “Randi Pink is the author of Girls Like Us, a School Library Journal Best Book of 2019, and Into White, also published by Feiwel and Friends. She lives with her family in Birmingham, Alabama.” (Bio taken from the back of Angel of Greenwood.)
Isaiah Wilson and Angel Hill could not seem more incompatible. As teen residents of the self-sufficient Black community of Greenwood, Isaiah has a reputation as a troublemaker, unlike the sweet and helpful Angel. What they do have in common is a feeling of loneliness: Angel because her peers regard her as a goody-two-shoes, and Isaiah because he hides his love of poetry behind a penchant for trouble. When offered a job working together on a two-seater bike as they haul a mobile library, the unlikely pair begin to learn more about themselves and each other. Though they’re at odds over the opposing philosophies of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Dubois, they realize there is a greater enemy on the rise when the town is stormed by an angry white mob on May 31, 1921.
Randi Pink’s Angel of Greenwood portrays one of the most tender YA romances I have ever had the pleasure to read. The entire book is rife with personal heartbreaks while exploring the systemic oppression of Black people in 1920s America, and that, in many ways, is still very much alive today. One reason the dynamic between the two characters is so enthralling is the way both are written to challenge stereotypes. Angel is kind, demure, and feels her greatest purpose is to help others, but she also stands up for her beliefs. Isaiah too defies expectations by being a softhearted and introspective young poet, who, as the book progresses, grows to own up for his past mistakes. Despite the vitriolic circumstances they are forced to navigate, it was truly special to read how Angel and Isaiah manage to be vulnerable with one another in such tender and deep ways. The dynamic character evolution of these two complex teens, coupled with the growing tension of the approaching 1921 Tulsa Massacre, made this novel impossible to put down.
PRR Writer, Grace Kennedy