The Black Queen by Jumata Emill

Nova Albright, the first Black homecoming queen at Lovett High, is dead. Murdered the night of her coronation, her body found the next morning in the old slave cemetery she spent her weekends rehabilitating.

Tinsley McArthur was supposed to be queen. Not only is she beautiful, wealthy, and white, it’s her legacy—her grandmother, her mother, and even her sister wore the crown before her.

Everyone in Lovett knows Tinsley would do anything to carry on the McArthur tradition.

No one is more certain of that than Duchess Simmons, Nova’s best friend. Duchess’s father is the first Black police captain in Lovett.

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For Duchess, Nova’s crown was more than just a win for Nova. It was a win for all the Black kids. Now her best friend is dead, and her father won’t face the fact that the main suspect is right in front of him.

Duchess is convinced that Tinsley killed Nova—and that Tinsley is privileged enough to think she can get away with it. But Duchess’s father is a cop, so he falls behind the blue line. Which means that the white girl is going to walk.

Duchess is determined to prove Tinsley’s guilt. And to do that, she’ll have to get close to her. But Tinsley has an agenda, too. Everyone loved Nova. And sometimes, love is exactly what gets you killed.

My Review

This story grabs your attention right away. We are introduced to Nova Albright, Duchess Simmons, and Tinsley McArthur, three girls who attend Lovett High during their senior year of high school.

The destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina led to the closing of Booker High, the Black kids in their town are forced to attend a “new and improved” (majority-white) high school, where they have no memories or traditions to call their own.

The outcry of the displaced leads to the school implementing a new rule that alternates yearly how the Homecoming Queen is selected. 

This new rule put a monkey wrench in Tinsley’s plans to carry on the family tradition of being crowned Homecoming Queen.

“You’re new here, so you don’t understand what this means to me. I’ve been dreaming about being homecoming queen since I was a little girl. My—” “Your grandmother, mother, and sister were queens too,” I finish for her, rolling my eyes. “She knows. I told her. Next.”

Soon after Nova is crowned Homecoming Queen, she is murdered in her coronation attire at a historical slave graveyard. All fingers point to Tinsley who would stop at nothing to wear the crown.

This leads to questions about her not being arrested and charged with Nova’s murder especially since she is caught on camera stating what many perceived as a damning confession.

I liked that this was a young adult murder mystery that older audiences can enjoy. I hated how white privilege reared its ugly head, the racist insults reminded me of a setting in the early 60s.

Duchess’ point of view came from being a Black lesbian in a Bible Belt state, which made for a great read. The strength shown by her as her peers blamed her father for not arresting Tinsley fast enough and for being best friends with Nova was unmatched.

Duchess was determined to solve Nova’s murder even if he meant getting close to Tinsley and being called a trader by their close friends.

Tinsley exploded off the page in every scene she was in. Her growth and maturity surprised me by the time I got to the end of the book.

She was determined to prove her innocence but getting to know Nova postmortem gave her the fire she needed to find out why they killed such a beautiful spirit.

This story showed just how far people will go to keep secrets and their wealth. Classism and greed turned what was supposed to be a fairytale celebrating the first Black Queen of Lovett High into a tragic murder mystery.

This book is a page-turner, just when you think you’ve figured it out another secret is revealed that changes everything.

Sistah Girls this is definitely a 5-star read.



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