You know those books that make you scream? That was me and One of the Good Ones. I have a note on my phone that is just, “OMG WHAT?!” Maika and Martiza Moulite have created a story that is not only about police brutality and racism, but also delivers some serious thriller/mystery vibes! Keep reading this book review to see my full thoughts!
ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?
When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.
One of the good ones.
Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.
(Disclaimer: I received this book from Netgalley. This has not impacted my review which is unbiased and honest.)
TW: racism, police brutality, homophobia (religious context), forced drugging, descriptions of lynching
Having loved Dear Haiti, I had such high hopes for One of the Good Ones and the author’s letter hooked me. You might be able to guess from the title, but it talks about how when we say “one of the good ones” we mean one of the ones we accept. The cases of BIPOC people who fit into our mold of what we expect, what we accept. The ones who are successful, “well-behaved”, look like what we expect, and defy our stereotypes. This book is for all the BIPOC people who have never fit into that category. Who were never going to look that way, to never be as quiet as they “should have been”, who had to make tough decisions no one understood.
(Pay special attention to every time you read that phrase in the book!)
Writing and Timelines
One of the Good Ones is a multi-layered book that took me by storm. Each page I fell more in love with the sister relationship between Kezi, Happi, and Genny. Their relationship of grief, competition, resentment, and love. This multiple POV and timeline book explores the racism of the past and the ways its effects are still rippling into today. How it pervades into education and history books. The scars in our family albums, on our skin, and in the cells of our DNA. All the violence against ourselves, our sisters, our families, our communities, our identities.
While reading, I was constantly awed at the writing. The ways the POVs intersected, layered on top of each other, heard each other’s echos throughout history. It’s one of those books that has fabulous and masterful writing, emotional characters, and plot twists that will make you scream. Considering this year’s Black Lives Matter protests, it’s even more emotional and haunting. The ways that it doesn’t matter if we’re doing the right thing because we exist in a world where doing the right thing can get us killed.
There were passages in One of the Good Ones that made my skin shiver. Whether it was out of rage, I could feel the fear pulsing through their skin. One of the Good Ones is a story about grief, loss, and secrets. It’s also a story about reconciliation, finding the truth, and never giving up. Unraveling pieces of history from decades before, it strikes a balance between the struggles we are still fighting and the progress we’re making. While the multiple POVs and timelines might be a bit confusing at the beginning, stick with it. It’s a book that defies labels and expectations, but one that will captivate you.
Find One of the Good Ones on Goodreads, Amazon, Indiebound, Bookshop.org & The Book Depository.