The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson
July 16, 2023 6:13 PM - Subscribe

Author Tiffany D. Jackson ramps up the horror and tackles America’s history and legacy of racism in this YA novel following a biracial teenager as her Georgia high school hosts its first integrated prom.

When Springville residents—at least the ones still alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation... Maddy did it.

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she's dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High's racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school's first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it's possible to have a normal life.

But some of her classmates aren't done with her just yet. And what they don't know is that Maddy still has another secret... one that will cost them all their lives.
posted by johnofjack (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is this basically Carrie, but by a black woman and updated for modern readers? Yes. Am I enjoying it? Hell yes.

I have a lot of thoughts about this but I'm only about 75% through and will post more once I'm done.
posted by johnofjack at 6:14 PM on July 16, 2023

Okay, so: CW if you wouldn't have guessed; this book deals with a wide range of acts of racism, from microaggressions to internalized bigotry to use of the N-word to police brutality.

Also: spoilers.

I read Carrie over 30 years ago, but offhand I think that this retelling is better in most ways--it develops the characters more; it deals deftly with race, racism, and colorism; it spends a reasonable amount of time showing the protagonist taking an interest in her powers and learning to use them; it foregrounds the tragedy and builds a sense of dread as it approaches rather than taking King's approach (focusing on Carrie's emotions, building up to a lashing-out and a sense of catharsis).

It also dodges what King theorized in Danse Macabre as one of the mainstays of horror fiction: an urge to have something violate the status quo, then to exorcise that force and return to "normal." When "normal" is injustice, why would you want to return to it? No, Jackson forgoes the self-destructive ending and has Maddy embrace both her heritage and herself, allowing her to escape to her mother (presumably with her new boyfriend, who--unlike her father--loves her for who she is). In so doing the ending calls back to Langston Hughes's "Harlem" (quoted earlier in the text): the status quo may reassert itself eventually, but what happens when justice is so long denied? (What a lovely nightmare that would be for DeSantis and TFG, if either could ever be convinced to read this book.)

Where I think the book is weakest is in a place lifted from the original text: Maddy's father never really convinced me. I couldn't say why, and can't remember if Carrie's mother did (and am also not sure it would matter, since I read it 30+ years ago), but that one character just never felt real to me whereas all the others did (even Jules, as much as I hated her). Second weakest would be the brief discussion of where Maddy got her powers (I'm neither convinced nor interested; four of the top-grossing films of all time are about people with supernatural abilities [five, if you include Star Wars]), but that was at least mercifully brief.

That said, these are fairly minor complaints and on the whole I liked the book a lot. For me, it was horrific but not in the ways typical of horror; and I appreciated it that it did new and interesting things with this nearly 50-year-old story.
posted by johnofjack at 2:35 PM on July 17, 2023 [1 favorite]

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