I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories ESPECIALLY ones centered on diverse characters. So when I got a copy of Gabriel Bump’s sharply funny debut novel EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG, I just couldn’t wait to read it!
Claude McKay Love is a young, black boy growing up in the south side of Chicago in the 1990s. Abandoned by his parents, Claude is raised by his grandmother and her lovelorn, queer friend Paul. Claude’s childhood is defined by abandonment, trying to fit in, and a major riot that ravages South Shore. Claude continues to search for belonging by moving to Missouri for college. But Claude comes to learn that he can’t outrun his past and that there are no safe places for a young black man in America.
I really enjoyed how EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG tackles heavy issues like racism, gang violence, and police brutality in a darkly comedic way. The balance between seriousness and levity achieved it truly perfect! That said, the book feels like two completely different stories smooshed together. The first part about Claude’s childhood is presented as vignettes that set up his inner development. The choppy rhythm took time to get used to but was effective in establishing the character. The plot loses steam in the second half and becomes more of a typical thriller. There are plot points that appear out of nowhere with not enough explanation to make them believable and the ending felt abrupt. The charm of the beginning of the story is definitely lost by the end. But overall the story is unique and funny enough that some readers will be able to overlook the faults of the second half.
EVERYWHERE YOU DON’T BELONG is an introduction to a great new literary voice! It is an important book with diverse characters and timely concepts. Though I had some issues with the plot, I definitely will read what Gabriel Bump writes next!
** Algonguin Books provided the book for honest review.
- Title: Everywhere Your Don’t Belong
- Author: Gabriel Bump
- Published: February 4, 2020 (Algonquin Books)
- Genre: fiction
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * 1/2