After an unintentional nine month hiatus from blogging, I’m so happy to be back with a review of a book I loved so much, We Deserve Monuments. Keep reading to find a description of the book, my review, and links to where you can purchase the book.
We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pub Date: 11/29/22
Genre: YA Contemporary
We Deserve Monuments Description
Family secrets, a swoon-worthy romance, and a slow-burn mystery collide in We Deserve Monuments, a YA debut from Jas Hammonds that explores how racial violence can ripple down through generations.
What’s more important? Knowing the truth or keeping the peace?
Seventeen-year-old Avery Anderson is convinced her senior year is ruined when she’s uprooted from her life in DC and forced into the hostile home of her terminally ill grandmother, Mama Letty. The tension between Avery’s mom and Mama Letty makes for a frosty arrival and unearths past drama they refuse to talk about. Every time Avery tries to look deeper, she’s turned away, leaving her desperate to learn the secrets that split her family in two.
While tempers flare in her avoidant family, Avery finds friendship in unexpected places: in Simone Cole, her captivating next-door neighbor, and Jade Oliver, daughter of the town’s most prominent family—whose mother’s murder remains unsolved.
As the three girls grow closer—Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoming into romance—the sharp-edged opinions of their small southern town begin to hint at something insidious underneath. The racist history of Bardell, Georgia is rooted in Avery’s family in ways she can’t even imagine. With Mama Letty’s health dwindling every day, Avery must decide if digging for the truth is worth toppling the delicate relationships she’s built in Bardell—or if some things are better left buried.
“She was a sunflower. Beautiful. Standing tall, searching for warmth and expansion. The kind of flower whose field you could get lost in.”
Have you ever read a book that felt like it knew you? We Deserve Monuments sucked me in. It’s nothing like I thought it would be which actually made me enjoy it more. From the beginning, Hammonds does such a good job at painting a picture of Bardell because I immediately felt unsettled by the town, which is funny since I drive through and by towns just like it often. The familiarity and understanding of what lurks in those towns made Bardell feel real to me.
“A slow-burn mystery” is a very good way to describe it, as I wouldn’t go into this book expecting Avery to be solving something or following clues the entire time. The mystery unfolds naturally over the course of the book, especially the more Avery learns about the town and her family. I feel like I should have seen the twist coming though, but it was completely not even on my radar that it was something that could have happened, so I definitely was a fan of the shocking mystery element. There were also some third person chapters that added a nice touch to the book, giving us a better understanding of the people and events that shaped the town. The chapters were eerie at times and kept the vibe of the mystery going.
The romance in We Deserve Monuments was sweet, messy, and realistic. The queerness in the book in general was amazing. From the characters to the spaces they navigated to the way history repeated itself. It was also nice to see what queerness can look like at different stages of life and how not being “out” doesn’t make you any less.
This book had so much humor, much of it provided by Mama Letty. She really reminded me of my own Black southern grandmother who my family took care of while she was dying of cancer and the things she complained about and the way she still smoked cigarettes and drank Coke. Sometimes this book really felt like a snippet of my own life. Avery’s family dynamic was refreshing, and I liked seeing how they worked through their imperfections and struggles being compounded in Bardell.
Simone was also a funny, bright light in this book. She was stylish and cool and the kind of person that Avery needed in her life. Simone and Jade’s friendship was very cute, and showed the kind of mundane things teens do living in a small town, but how they still found a way to make them seem larger than life. The two were also so affirming and accepting of Avery which warmed my heart. Jade was a complicated character, but I think for the most part she was a sweet person who didn’t have the best influences in her life and has much to learn about the world, but we all have to start somewhere. Sometimes it’s hard to understand why people continue to live in towns like Bardell, but as someone whose extended family is from a similar place, I also understand how nowhere is perfect and you shouldn’t have to uproot, nor is it feasible for many people.
Overall, I feel like I have to add We Deserve Monuments to the list of my favorites. It’s the kind of book that creeps up on you until you’re at the end and amazed at what you just read. Like did I expect this book to make me cry? No. Did it? You bet. There’s also something about being a Black, queer woman from Georgia reading a book about a Black, queer teen in GA that hit me right in the feels.
*Thank you to the publisher for the ARC. All opinions are my own. Quotes are taken from the ARC*
Jas Hammonds (they/she) was raised in many cities and in-between the pages of many books. They have received support for their writing from Lambda Literary, Baldwin for the Arts, the Highlights Foundation and more. They are also a grateful recipient of a MacDowell James Baldwin Fellowship. Her debut novel, WE DESERVE MONUMENTS, is forthcoming November 29, 2022 from Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan.
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