by Andrew Palmer
When I started the book reviews here on Conservative Teachers of America, there was a specific type of book that I had hoped to be able to find and promote. It is a book that takes the ideas of freedom and liberty and packages it in such a way that a young adult would not realize that they are being taught those values. I am happy to report that I have found such a book with January Black.
This book started off with something extremely rare in young adult literature. Russo states on the dedication page, “Finally, I would like to thank the US military (and their families) for their service and sacrifice to defend our Constitution. Without you, I wouldn’t have had a story to tell, or a voice to tell it.” Rarely do you find young adult authors that could even tell you what the constitution is, let alone actually understand that it matters.
January Black is Wendy S. Russo‘s first novel and it is published by the boutique fantasy/science-fiction publisher Crescent Moon Press. Russo is not a professional author and according to her website, she “works for Louisiana State University as an IT analyst. She’s a wife, a mom, a Tiger, a Who Dat, and she falls asleep on her couch at 8:30 on weeknights.”
January Black is a dystopian future science-fiction novel that centers around the main character Matty Ducayn. Matty is expelled from school early in the book. He is given a chance by King Hadrian to answer a question and earn a master’s diploma. The problem for Matty is that the answer to this one question (What was January Black?) will affect everything he believes about the society he lives in and his own family history.
Russo does a lot right with this book. One of the things that I love about her writing is how she slowly reveals the plot to the reader. Every time you uncover something new, the story develops a new layer of mystery. I especially enjoyed how the constitution and the ideas of liberty that founded our nation exist in the background as Matty unravels the mystery behind the question he must answer. There is just enough here to get a high school aged reader curious and asking questions of his/her own about our country’s history.
I would recommend this book for mature high school readers and above. The main characters are around 18, and there is a little bit of sexuality in the story. I have no problem with this, and I was actually quite impressed with how it was handled. We live in a society that teaches young adults that the only purpose of sex is physical pleasure. They are told through multiple mediums that there is no greater meaning attached to the act. The message that rages throughout popular culture today is that there is little value in a committed monogamous relationship. Not so in this book. Teens are presented with a completely different message about the topic. It is a message that I would want my son to be exposed to when he is old enough.
Russo really impressed me with this novel. I was left hoping that this would be turned into a series because I want to know what happens next. We need more author’s like Ms. Russo in young adult literature. Ms. Russo…less sleep, more writing, please!
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