Book Review: Into White by Randi Pink

Into white cover

Into White
by Randi Pink
Goodreads |  Amazon
Series: no
Release date: September 13th 2016

I was SUPER excited for this book.  I preordered it six months ago and was refreshing my amazon account every few minutes on Tuesday until it was available.  I think that the concept for this novel, black girl prays to be white and then is, is genius.  I feel like that is a story that needs to be told.

My main problem with this book is that it lacked subtlety.  I know that explicit racism is a problem in the US.  But I don’t think that it is socially acceptable.  Maybe it was because the setting was Montgomery, Alabama.  I have never lived in the South and have done very little traveling there.  But I feel as if that story has already been told.  Many times and very well.   I was expecting this book to be more about implicit racism such as, the damage that microaggressions can cause or the damaging way that the black community is portrayed by the media.   

I didn’t get that.  I got a MC who hates her own race, turns white and then starts hanging around the two vilest human beings on the planet.  They are racist, have eating disorders, and also some very weird sexual manipulation issues.  Is this something that is common in other places?  I spent about 80 of my waking hours with teenagers and I didn’t recognize these two. Or any of their friends.

I am not sure how I feel about Latoya. First of all, she isn’t a reader.  I am so cheap when it comes to characters.  Make a literary reference and I am yours.   There were times that I really liked her clear headed tone but that made it all the more frustrating when she made decisions that I didn’t agree with.  She was also pretty casual about calling people some very mean names in her head.  Is this again an issue of subtly?  For the most part I agreed with her assessments just not the name calling.  It took me until about 68% of the way into the book to start liking her.  Which I think is significant because it is around that time that she starts liking herself. 

I did love, Alex, her brother.  He was sharp, sensitive, and kind.  He stuck by Latoya even when she was pretty cruel to him. It hurt that he limited who he was to stay true to her.  Side note on their parents.  Are they supposed to be amusing and zany?  Why was everything they said “screamed” or “yelled” or “shrieked”?  I know that there was a little resolution on this point but it was kind of jarring.

I think that the writing was quite decent.  I think that Randi Pink has a really interesting perspective and I liked how she presented it. There were parts in it that were meant to be funny that didn’t resonate with me.  It was just a different sense of humor.  The first person present narration also didn’t sit right with me.  I think that first person past would have worked better.  I wasn’t super impressed with how the premise was handled.  Latoya and everyone that she tells or who finds out is unsurprised and unfreaked out by her transformation.  A couple of times Latoya is sitting with and having a conversation with Jesus and she isn’t the least bit concerned.   Maybe there is a religious aspect of this novel that is going over my head?

I felt battered.  Instead of showing me new ideas and things to think about it felt as if this novel was holding me by the hair and screaming, “THINK ABOUT THIS ISSUE NOW.”  There was no sly undermining sidelong look from a character that freyed Latoya’s confidence.  It was all,” You are a slut.”  To her face.  The racism.  Obvious.  And to her face.  “I think black people are awful, ect.”  Same with the religion, sexual aggression, family, and lack of support that she feels from other black people. 

I will give Randi Pink another chance if she decides to write another book.  Obviously, this book made me do quite a bit of thinking and I did have an emotional reaction to the story.  Is it a matter of being disappointed because the book I got was different from the book that was in my head? I am not sure.   There was such potential in this story but the execution didn’t live up to the brilliant premise. 

From Goodreads:
When a black teenager prays to be white and her wish comes true, her journey of self-discovery takes shocking--and often hilarious--twists and turns in this debut that people are sure to talk about.

LaToya Williams lives in Birmingham, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. She's so low on the social ladder that even the other black kids disrespect her. Only her older brother, Alex, believes in her. At least, until a higher power answers her only prayer--to be "anything but black." And voila! She wakes up with blond hair, blue eyes, and lily white skin. And then the real fun begins . . .

Randi Pink's debut dares to explore provocative territory. One thing's for sure--people will talk about this book.