Title: Into White
Author: Randi Pink
Genre: YA, contemporary
Published: September 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Acquired: Bought from Amazon UK
Rating: ★★★☆☆ [2.5]
Book Blurb:: LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if her life would be different if she were… different. And then a higher power answers her prayer to be “anything but black.”
Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?
Wow, so this review has been really hard to write! I finished this book at the end of March, but I have been putting off writing this ever since 😦
I have been looking forward to read this for the longest time. Not only does it have a gorgeous cover, but the theme sounds really interesting:
LaToya Williams is one of the only black people in her school, and feels isolated. Her only friend is her older brother Alex; no one else in the school- not even her other black classmates, support her. Instead they ridicule her, and she hates it.
She hates being black, period. So much so that, one night, she prays to be anything but black. The next morning, Jesus appears and gives her just that- making her a popular white girl. Toya makes friends with the popular kids, and tries to adjust to her newfound whiteness.
This book revolves around a drastic change to Toya’s life, how she adjusts to this and how she works out what she really wants in life.
First- a disclaimer. I am a privileged white girl, and I have been very lucky to have not suffered a lot of prejudice in my life so far. As a result I did find it hard to connect with all the issues discussed in this book, so I’m not sure how much of an impact or important read this is to those in a similar situation to Toya. This has also made it very difficult to review Into White. However, I did find this book really insightful, and it opened my eyes to some struggles and other cultural/familial aspects of being black in a white American society.
I’ll be honest, I did find this story to be a really intriguing concept, and I was keen to find out how the author would portray changing from one race to another. However, it definitely didn’t pan out how I expected!
For one thing, I didn’t like all the negative black hate. Sure, at the beginning Toya hates her blackness- I mean she points out all the black traits that she hates, which ultimately drives her to wishing she was white. However, I did expect this to change throughout the book, where she would then realise how great she was in her old body, etc. While there are parts where Toya realises what she is missing, and there is some acceptance of her black self, honestly there wasn’t as much black pride as there could (and probably should) have been in this at all, which is such a shame.
I mean, this book definitely challenged race issues in America, showing perceived white attitudes towards blackness and even black attitudes amongst themselves. It was really interesting to read, and I just wish that the book ends with a more positive focus on blackness. In my opinion, the issue of race was just a story generator, and the main focus of this book was on family, love, and growing up.
I also wasn’t a fan of the use of Jesus, but I’ll be 100% honest and assume that is because I am not religious myself. I didn’t like Jesus’ personality, and I felt his inclusion made the book feel less important and more frivolous- his appearance added a “fun” element that dumbed the book down. However, if I was religious I may have liked having that personal connection? Let me know what you think!
Despite these issues I have with the book, Into White was still a quick and addictive read. I can’t say I feel 100% comfortable with everything that was discussed, but I really didn’t want to put the book down.
For me, it was definitely the family and sibling element that made this book for me. There was a lot of sibling love and, although there were lots of falling outs, it was so touching to see that relationship hold true. It really made me like the characters a lot more too
Speaking of characters, Alex was definitely my fave. He’s like a little puppy, and just wants the best for his little sister. I really did feel for him, I understood his pain and I just wanted him to be happy. I wanted to give him a big ol’ hug- especially at the end!
I also liked Deante throughout the book. He really grew up and showed his softer side as he supported Toya, which was so nice to see! However, I really disliked the final prank Deante, Alex and Toya did as revenge- it was so so petty and it did not help anything in the slightest.
Toya was a difficult character for me to like. She was really selfish and annoying, and I really couldn’t connect with her at all. However, it was nice to see her grow up a little and stand up for what she believes in. It was also nice to see her start to change her mind about blackness and love herself; although it did feel really sudden. It also felt a lot more like she liked her old life rather than being comfortable in her own skin, but maybe I interpreted it wrong? Either way, I found her an interesting character, but not someone I could connect with very well.
Okay, so I’m honestly still trying to digest this book. It was a very interesting and insightful read, but I am struggling to make up my mind about it. Parts of it left me feeling uncomfortable, but I cant tell if it is my privilege talking, or whether the topic of race and self-love was addressed well enough.
That said, I did enjoy Toya and Alex’s relationship, and that really made the book for me.
Have you read this book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!!! 🙂