NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS by Allen Eskens is a thoughtful historical fiction standalone that addresses casual and blatant racism in the 1970s. This post DOES NOT CONTAIN SPOILERS.
I was fortunate to receive a copy from Mulholland Books. Here is the summary and shortened review.
In a small town where loyalty to family and to “your people” carries the weight of a sacred oath, defying those unspoken rules can be a deadly proposition.
After fifteen years of growing up in the Ozark hills with his widowed mother, high-school freshman Boady Sanden is beyond ready to move on. He dreams of glass towers and cityscapes, driven by his desire to be anywhere other than Jessup, Missouri. The new kid at St. Ignatius High School, if he isn’t being pushed around, he is being completely ignored. Even his beloved woods, his playground as a child and his sanctuary as he grew older, seem to be closing in on him, suffocating him.
Then Thomas Elgin moves in across the road, and Boady’s life begins to twist and turn. Coming to know the Elgins-a black family settling into a community where notions of “us” and “them” carry the weight of history-forces Boady to rethink his understanding of the world he’s taken for granted. Secrets hidden in plain sight begin to unfold: the mother who wraps herself in the loss of her husband, the neighbor who carries the wounds of a mysterious past that he holds close , the quiet boss who is fighting his own hidden battle.
But the biggest secret of all is the disappearance of Lida Poe, the African-American woman who keeps the books at the local plastics factory. Word has it that Ms. Poe left town, along with a hundred thousand dollars of company money. Although Boady has never met the missing woman, he discovers that the threads of her life are woven into the deepest fabric of his world.
As the mystery of her fate plays out, Boady begins to see the stark lines of race and class that both bind and divide this small town, and he is forced to choose sides.
Note: When you purchase the book with the link above, you are supporting my local indie bookstore, Avid Bookshop. Thank you.
Why I was interested: The 1970s aren’t an era that is written about often within the YA historical fiction/fantasy sphere, so when I received NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS in the mail, I was pleasantly surprised it took place around the Bicentennial of 1976. However, while the book takes place over 40 years ago, there is much to connect to the present day when it comes to discussions about casual and blatant racism.
Judge a book by it’s cover: This nod to the old 1950s truck that plays a part in the case of Lida Poe and racist attacks within the story is a good focus as this story addresses the question if Boady will join the “good ol’ boys” system or stand up for what is right.
What to expect: As this story addresses racism, be aware that racial epithets — and one against LGTBQ+ people — are used. However, this story is both heartfelt and a determined read. I do wish there was more of Thomas within the story and his thoughts and opinions, but I also understand that the journey is Boady’s against white supremacy.
Why you should pick this book up: If you have enjoyed stories like Angie Thomas’ THE HATE YOU GIVE and I’M NOT DYING WITH YOU TONIGHT by by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal but want a more historic angle, this book is for you.
Want more?: Eskens has also published additional books including adult thriller book series, THE LIFE WE BURY. NOTHING MORE DANGEROUS is available today, Tuesday, Nov. 12!
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