*Given an advanced reading copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
Chlorine Sky by Mahogany L. Browne is a novel-in-verse featuring two Black girls engaged in a toxic friendship that is hanging on a thread, but the verse and the story fail to strike a chord.
Skyy, the main character’s name we learn on the last page, is a basketballer who feels less beautiful compared to other girls, especially her best friend Lay Li, who seems to be the most beautiful girl at school. Lay Li is a boy magnet while Skyy suppresses crushes on boys. So when Lay Li’s ex-boyfriend Shawn tries to get more information on her new boyfriend Curtis, Skyy disses Curtis. And like that Lay Li ignores Skyy like she ignores Shawn. In disbelief, Skyy works to get back in Lay Li’s good graces as she feels the pain of losing her best friend over a trivial situation. She can’t confide in Lay Li or her older sister Essa, who’s always mean, and she doesn’t see her cousin Inga, who’s always nice, enough. So she stays on the basketball court and falls for a boy named Clifton. They kiss, but Skyy feels sad that she can’t share this information with Lay Li. Days go by until Lay Li comes to Skyy to share her very different experience with Clifton.
The novel-in-verse is becoming a genre that literary agents want to boost in the industry. Except it’s difficult to tell a sufficient story that fits into a novel in verse. This book’s verse is borderline mediocre, some good parts but mostly so-so parts as in the combination of words are not impressive. For grammar geeks, the paragraph breaks aren’t placed in the best spots with ampersands starting at lines and capitalization is not used enough. For visual geeks, the cover is beautiful with the oranges and navy blues around a Black girl trying to find herself while rescuing a friendship.
Overall, the book is short but not as sweet as expected. The story has familiar elements with the athletic girl being best friends with the fashionable girl. Opposites attract, but in high school the athletic girl feels inferior to the fashionable girl because of the heightened attention on what is classified as beauty. And beauty means everything in adolescence when boys are in the picture, especially when the boys are the ones creating the division between the female friendships.