Book Review: Black-Haired Boy by Tristan LaFerriere
I feel a little bias here because I found a lot of similarities between this book and one of my own novels, so I feel like I naturally engaged with this work. I would describe it as a coming-of-age tale. While the main character, Kieran, undergoes a significant loss, it is this loss that seems to force him out of his shell; thus, readers will witness a great deal of growth in Kieran. I would also label it as a coming out story, too. Kieran has to learn to take risks to disclose who he is before he learns that others will still accept him. Lastly, it could also count as a first love story between Kieran and Iggy.
The narrative is told through Kieran’s journals. It offers an interesting format, and of course, readers get Kieran’s perspective on events. Like a lot of teenagers, Kieran suffers from low self-esteem. He becomes a target for bullying from his brother Justin’s new friends. I feel like this presents a dilemma that can occur between siblings when one is popular, and the other isn’t. I even recall my own sister’s friends spreading rumors about me in high school, for example. High school is an awkward place where some people do anything to fit in. The novel just reminds me that high school sucks. Bullying is a main theme of the book. While it seems to subside, it returns in the narrative with a vengeance. However, Kieran seems to process things relatively well, which I believe is because he now has Iggy in his life. Iggy starts as a friend but turns into a boyfriend. Before Iggy, Kieran was mostly isolated other than his two friends Thomas and Athena. Social support during a crisis is essential, and Kieran goes to Iggy and later his friends, which I feel is a sign of his growth, especially because with his first loss, he merely hid from everyone.
It's a heartfelt story. It shows how LGBTQIA people can be targeted for bullying or just people who dress differently. My only issue was the ending. I felt like there were several plot directions hinted at but then nothing materialized. It just ended. I don’t need stories to wrap up nice and neatly, but I was confused about the direction the author was going, so when it ended, I stayed confused. Overall, I appreciate this work because it delves into issues of identity, sibling rivalry, bullying, and social anxiety. I would say it’s a serious work.