Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers (#QP2024) Feature Review: The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

  • The Black Queen
  • by Jumata Emill
  • Publisher: Delacorte Press
  • Imprint: Penguin Random House 
  • Release date: January 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593568545

Nova is set to be the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High School. Her friend Duchess is thrilled to finally have representation on the homecoming court and sees it as a start to fighting racism at her school. Popular, white Tinsley was supposed to be homecoming queen and carry on her family’s tradition of being crowned queen. When Nova is found murdered the night of her coronation, everyone, including Duchess, suspects Tinsley. But as the investigation goes on more clues develop and soon Tinsley and Duchess are teaming up to find the true killer and bring justice for Nova.

The combination of social justice, petty high school drama and twisty mystery make this a fantastic ride of a read. The mystery is solved at just the right pace with clues and suspects falling off one by one until the final reveal. The commentary on institutional racism in schools and small towns helps drive the story forward and gives even more depth to the plot. 

Readers who enjoy books that are more than just a thrill will devour this quick read. Also those who enjoy small town murder-mysteries. For those looking for another complex mystery with hints of social justice should read Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé or The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson.

– Rachel Adams

Release Date: April 3, 2023
Release Date: September 13, 2022

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

  • The Black Queen
  • by Jumata Emill
  • Narrated by Angel Pean and Erin Spencer
  • Publisher: Listening Library/Peguin Random House
  • Publication Date: January 31, 2023
  • ISBN: 9780593667699

Nova Albright is the first Black homecoming queen of Lovett High. Murdered on coronation night and found in a cemetery she was helping advocate for funds to maintain, the investigation to find her killer creates shockwaves and turns relationships upside down in the town. Among a cast of characters, Nova’s best friend Duchess Simmons, and her competitor for homecoming queen, Tinsley McArthur, stand out as their independent desires for justice join forces to see who can solve the case. Race, history, trauma, and family secrets unfold in this modern-day murder mystery. 

The alternating voices add depth to the story and keep listeners in suspense. Additional chimes and bells mimic the high school setting. Jumata Emill’s criminal journalism experience builds the fast-paced twists and turns of a suspenseful thriller. Angel Pean and Erin Spencer bring excitement, anger, and sadness with their tone, volume, and emotion.  

Mystery readers who deep dive into thriller and social themes like structural racism or readers who enjoyed One of the Good Ones by Maika and Maritza Mouilite, One of Us is Lying series inspired by Karen M. McManus’ novel or Bad Things Happen Here by Rebecca Barrow, will have a compelling time with The Black Queen by Jumata Emill.

-Ileana Pulu

Other Nominated Titles

Released February 28, 2023

The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.