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My Name Is Venus Black

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Venus Black is a straitlaced A student fascinated by the study of astronomy—until the night she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and ignites a media firestorm. Venus refuses to talk about what happened or why, except to blame her mother. Adding to the mystery, Venus’s developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo, goes missing.

More than five years later, Venus is released from prison with a suitcase of used clothes, a fake identity, and a determination to escape her painful past. Estranged from her mother, and with her beloved brother still missing, she sets out to make a fresh start in Seattle, skittish and alone. But as new people enter her orbit—including a romantic interest and a young girl who seems like a mirror image of her former lost self—old wounds resurface, and Venus realizes that she can’t find a future while she’s running from her past.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published February 27, 2018

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About the author

Heather Lloyd

1 book105 followers
A bit about me. I’ve worked as an editor for more than twenty years and have authored, or collaborated on, a bunch of non-fiction books (under my married name). Venus is my first novel and I’m working on a second. Fiction is my new love and I may never write a “true” book again!
My husband and I have four adult children who live in Oregon, and one who is gone but still near in spirit (we miss you, Noah). Three years ago, Dave and I moved from Colorado to New York City, which was quite a culture shock, not the least of which has been the size of our apartment. Think postage stamp. But we love it here. We enjoy walking or riding bikes around Central Park. We like to do dinner and an Indie movie with friends, the occasional play, and on those hot and humid evenings of summer, head down to the truck vendor at the corner for soft ice cream. I love reading novels, of course, and meeting friends over coffee, and the bad habit I love most is watching dumb TV to help me wind down before bed.
I kind of, sort of, like walking my dog, Henri–except in winter when he hides under the couch as soon as I grab the leash. Problem is, he’s pretty sure I’ll make him wear his cute little coat in front of all the other dogs in Midtown (so embarrassing!). Why can’t he see they’re all wearing silly coats, too.
A bit about how Venus came to be. One morning I heard a girl’s voice in my head. She sounded really scared. And really angry. She had places to go, people to see–and I soon realized, a crime to commit. Clearly, she expected me to follow her around, listen to her talk, get it all down, and most importantly, get it right.
Like so many novelists, my characters often felt more real than conjured, like they already existed and knew exactly what they wanted to say or do next. In this way, they led me around tight corners in the plot and generously confided what they were thinking. In such moments, the writing process felt mysterious, even magical. (Other times, it was just damn hard!).
I do share some things in common with Venus. I grew up in Everett, Washington, when it was still mostly a mill town (lumber, paper) and before it was a bedroom community for high tech companies in Seattle. Like Venus, I was often angry and mouthy as a teen, and I had a volatile relationship with my stepdad. Fortunately, we worked things through before he passed, and (thanks be to God) without help from a gun.
Losing our son a couple years ago was the hardest thing I’ll ever experience, I’m sure. But his full-on enthusiasm for an early version of this novel sustained me as I wrote. And so did the story and the character themselves. Strange, how that happens. Wonderful, too. It probably explains why I was never tempted to abandon Venus (like she’d ever let me!). Even when I lost my way in the writing, it felt like I was participating in some kind of small, messy miracle. Of course, it also helped that I kept falling for these flawed, but mostly lovable, characters.
I hope you’ll fall for them too.
(and leave a review!)

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 630 reviews
Profile Image for Deanna .
647 reviews12.4k followers
March 31, 2018
My reviews can also be seen at: https://deesradreadsandreviews.wordpr...

4.5 Stars!!

I was pretty excited to read this novel. I actually started to get nervous at how excited I was. I thought that if I built it up too much in my head that I might be let down. But I wasn’t.

In my opinion, this was a phenomenal read!!

Venus Black is a high school student. Her teachers often told her mother how wonderful it was to have Venus in their class. Her mother wished that Venus was “ such a pleasure ” at home too. Venus wonders why her mother never questioned that there may have been a reason why she was the way she was at home. Venus believes that one small choice, action, or event; can change the course of your entire life. She wonders what small thing may have changed the course of her own life.

“if I could change one key detail, I would never have seen what I saw or done what I did that terrible February night”

Because you see, Venus has committed a horrific crime that has landed her in jail and torn her family apart. Venus doesn’t deny that she did do something awful…but she refuses to say why she did it. But one thing Venus will say is that it's her mother's fault.

None of what’s happening now feels real. Just a few days ago, Venus was hanging out by her locker at school, gossiping with her friends. Now she’s been labeled a violent offender, locked up with girls who will beat her up if she looks at them sideways. On top of everything else, she finds out that her developmentally challenged younger brother, Leo has gone missing. She knows he must be scared and she’s horrified that she can’t go out to help look for him. Venus adores Leo. Although he’s seven, he acts around three or four. Sometimes he makes noises and rarely likes to be touched. He often ignores people completely...

“But Leo’s always just Leo to me.”

But now he’s gone. And now all Venus hears over and over in her head…

“It’s because of what you did”

Five years later, Venus is released from the Juvenile Detention Centre. She wants to be somewhere else….somewhere no one knows who she is or what she’s done. So with a suitcase of old clothing and a new name, Venus is off in search of a new life. But in order to get a new life, she may have to let go of the one thing that helped her through these horrible years.


But if she lets go of that anger then she may have to face the past, the feelings, and the guilt. Venus is afraid she’ll fall apart or that she’ll be betrayed again. But with the help of some unexpected new friends, Venus may actually be able to finally stop running from her past and hiding who she really is.

But it will still take a HUGE leap of faith for her to come back….as Venus Black.

WOW! What an excellent read. I REALLY enjoyed this DEBUT novel.

The novel takes place in the eighties which I thought worked really well. I LOVED knowing what was going on inside the character’s minds… especially Leo’s and Tessa's. There wasn’t an overload of violence, which I appreciated. Some situations may still be triggering to some readers though. It’s definitely an emotional read, but I feel like the author handled sensitive situations extremely well.

A story about betrayal, love, family, and forgiveness.

Well written and easy to follow, I thought the story flowed well, and I was happy with how it all came together in the end. I think that different readers will take different things from this novel. But in my opinion, this is a wonderful young adult novel that many readers of all ages will enjoy.

My Name is Venus Black ” was an honest and engaging read with a great plot and relatable characters. I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to read this novel, and I’m really excited to see what Heather Lloyd writes next!

I'd like to thank Random House/Dial Press and Heather Lloyd for giving me the opportunity to read this novel in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Meredith (Slowly Catching Up).
771 reviews12.1k followers
March 5, 2018
4.5 stars

Heartfelt, moving read about friendship, family, love, and forgiveness. My Name is Venus Black is about a broken family struggling to put the pieces back together after 13- year-old Venus kills her stepfather. This isn’t about the how and the why Venus killed her stepfather, it’s about how actions and reactions don’t always have the desired outcome and how the right choices are not always the easy ones.

The book opens in 1980 with 13-year-old Venus Black being taken to juvenile detention for murdering her stepfather. The reader isn’t sure why or how she killed him, but there are a lot of inferences to be made. I immediately took to Venus’ character, as her fear and pain emanated from the pages.

Not knowing anything about this book, I found it jarring when the POV switched to Leo, Venus’s “mentally handicapped” younger brother. However, Leo quickly became my favorite character in this book and I eagerly awaited to see how his story was going to play out.

POV’s and time continue to shift throughout the book--this type of narrative style works to offer the full picture of events from all perspectives--even from the those characters that I didn’t care for. Sometimes this type of writing style can be frustrating, but it fully works in My Name is Venus Black.

I absolutely loved this book! It’s well-written and the characterization is so strong that I got thoroughly attached to all of the characters--to the point as if I felt I personally knew them. This is a compelling read that left me wanting more. There’s a strong message about forgiveness and hope, and l shed happy tears when I reached the last page.

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
January 30, 2018

Yes, me, too, Tom! This was such a great book!

One night in 1980, 13-year-old Venus Black's life, and the life of her family, changes dramatically when she commits a crime. She doesn't want to talk about it, but the media can't get enough of it. It's a surprise to many who know Venus well, because she is a straight-A student who dreams of being an astronaut. Her crime, and her subsequent refusal to talk about that night, or the events which led up to it, strains her already-difficult relationship with her mother, Inez, whom Venus blames for everything.

"A few days ago, I was hanging out by my school locker, gossiping about boys with my girlfriends. My biggest worry was how to talk Inez into buying me a new pair of Jordache jeans. Now I'm locked up with junior criminals, I've been labeled a violent offender, and my biggest worry is getting beat up."

To make matters worse, Venus' seven-year-old stepbrother, Leo, who is developmentally disabled (in modern vernacular he'd probably be diagnosed as autistic), has gone missing. No one knows what happened to him or where he could have gone, but it's just another thing Venus blames herself for (and Inez blames Venus as well).

Five years later, Venus is released from prison and is determined to make a fresh start, as someone new. She has a fake ID and a suitcase of used clothes, and what she wants is to find a job, make some money, and then move from Washington State to California, where no one will know who she was or what she did. She all too quickly finds that it's not easy to start over when you haven't resolved your own issues, or said the things you've needed to say.

She gets a job and starts to settle in, and meets both a young girl who reminds her a little of herself when she was younger, and a man who is interested in her romantically, although she knows she must keep him at arm's length. But after a while she realizes that she can't escape her guilt or hurt, and she needs to do everything she can to try and find Leo, to see if he's even alive five years later.

My Name is Venus Black is powerful, moving, and utterly compelling. It's a story of second chances, of forgiveness and regret, fear of rejection and fear that someone will discover the secrets you've kept hidden. It's a story of family and friendship, of realizing you are worthy of happiness and love, and that you can't push people away forever. It's also a story of how people we least expect can rescue us.

From the book's very first sentence I was completely hooked on Venus' story. Venus is a complex character but she is so easy to become enamored of, and root for, despite what she did when she was younger. I was so happy that Heather Lloyd made the choice to focus more on Venus after prison than have to endure the young woman-in-prison clichés.

There are a number of memorable characters other than Venus—Inez, Leo, Piper, Danny, and two other characters I won't mention for fear of spoiling their role in the story. I did feel as if the character of Tinker seemed to be little more than a device to advance part of the story; I'm still not completely clear on his motivations to do what he did.

Lloyd doesn't quite settle for wrapping everything up with a neat bow, she doesn't take a heavy-handed approach with describing her characters' flaws, and allows you to come to your own conclusions about whether they should be considered guilty or not. There were a few times I worried she was going to sacrifice the integrity of her story for some quick drama, and I was so glad she didn't.

All in all, this is a beautifully written, memorable, moving story, and Venus Black is truly unforgettable.

NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group provided me an advance copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Angela M (On a little break).
1,270 reviews2,217 followers
January 24, 2018
4.5 stars

Stories from the perspective of children always get to me because the children are almost always so honest and many times so much more astute than the adults . I certainly felt this way as I read this book. It’s hard to read at times because some sad and awful things happen. If not for these child characters, this probably would not have appealed to me when my friend Esil recommended this book . There are crimes committed - murder and then a kidnapping, some suspense - usually not my kind of book . But my friend knows a lot about the types of books I like and knew that I would be drawn in . She was right.

13 year old Venus Black, her 7 year old brother Leo who is more than likely autistic, the sweet and smart Tessa, my favorite character with so much heart, a 10 year old girl who becomes so important to Leo and Piper who forms a bond with Venus later in the book - these are the children I came to care about. It’s difficult to write about this without spoilers so I’ll be brief in my thoughts. 1980 , a deadly crime is committed and Venus spends 6 years in a juvenile lock up. Her narrative runs along side her brother Leo’s story and his heartbreaking ordeal. While in many ways, this is Venus’ story, Heather Lloyd has done a great job of weaving together the situations of a few characters whose lives come together by circumstance.

There is a dysfunctional family, there is a loving father and daughter, there are mistakes that people make that have consequences, some that deserve redemption and forgiveness and an ending that even though predictably neat made for a satisfying read . Thanks , Esil !

I received an advanced copy of this book from Dial Press/Random House through NetGalley.
Profile Image for Julie .
3,977 reviews58.9k followers
March 14, 2018
My Name is Venus Black is a 2018 Dial Press publication.

It’s Venus’s story, but Leo is the star of the show-

It’s 1980 and thirteen -year old Venus Black commits a serious crime, which lands her in ‘Juvie’ for an extended stay. If this isn’t bad enough, while she’s detained, her younger brother, Leo, who has developmental challenges, disappears, believed to have been kidnapped.

In the meantime, Venus struggles with the resentment she feels towards her mother and works to come to terms with the events that brought her to this junction in her life. But once Venus has served her time, she is determined to put the past behind her and start with a clean slate. To that end, she assumes a false identity, gets a job, makes friends, and even goes out on a date, while also babysitting her landlord’s niece.

While Venus is adjusting to her new life, the reader also follows Leo’s trail, which takes a surprising turn when his kidnapper abandons him. But, Leo finds a loving home with his neighbors, who take very good care of him.

As these events unfold, the reader is left in a constant state of suspense, wondering what crime Venus committed and why.

I don’t read many YA novels for too many reasons to get into here. But, one of them is my lack of understanding when it comes to judging the writing, if it is age appropriate, if it is really an adult novel with a YA protagonist or if it is a YA novel geared towards middle grade or teens that adults can enjoy as well, or a combination of both.

After some careful consideration, I’ve decided that, based on the simplistic prose, this book was written with older teens in mind, but it also has very mature themes, which might appeal to adult readers, as well.

How did I happen across a YA novel when it is clearly a genre I avoid? That is another conundrum. Somehow, someway, I misunderstood the premise of the book, believing it to be a mystery novel, and signed up to review it, without realizing it was firmly situated in the YA category.

There is a thinly veiled mystery, which surrounds the specifics of the crime Venus committed, but it wasn’t exactly rocket science, and I figured out what her crime was right from the start, and had a fairly good idea why, but of course I was in the dark concerning all the minute details.

So, in my opinion, this is a YA novel centered around a teenager who committed a serious crime and the domino effect it had on her family and their struggle to hold everything together, both as individuals and as a unit.

Without getting preachy, I’m going to try to explain the issues I had with the book. While the author’s decision to place the time frame in the eighties was a very smart move, in my opinion, I think it’s important to realize that readers are living in the here and now, and younger audiences may not have the emotional maturity to make certain distinctions like an adult can.

There are so many crimes committed in the book, and not just the big one Venus is paying for. At times I felt the tone suggested that the end justified the means, and there was no accountability or any serious consequences for those actions.

There is a kidnapping, assuming a false identity, and harboring a child not your own without going through the proper channels or looking for blood relatives, which is illegal. Not to mention the irresponsible adults, the guns in a house with a developmentally challenged child, and the ever so slight suggestion that ‘extenuating circumstances’ meant Venus was somewhat justified in committing a vigilante style murder. Although the author seemed to make a conscious effort to avoid any glorification of Venus’s crime, it was still disproportionate to the offense, in my opinion, and wasn’t given the brevity it deserved. The hip therapist also failed to explain to Venus that she had other options, or list a few of those alternatives, so that younger readers who may find themselves in a similar situation would know who to contact or how to seek help.

I don’t’ know if any of that would have tripped me up if this were an adult novel, but since I think the book will be read by younger audiences I worried about the message some of these elements were sending.

Again, if this is a book geared towards adults, they will most likely find themselves more concerned about the fate of Leo, and how Venus is doing once she is released, which is, no doubt the direction the author was steering the reader, and where she wanted you to focus your attention. Of course, I don’t always follow directions so well.

I did understand the message the author was trying to convey with Venus- or at least I think I did. Venus wanted to forget her painful past, start fresh, and erase all traces of the girl who committed a serious crime. But, before she can really reach her full potential, she must face her past, own it, and then make peace with it. That’s a good example for any of us to follow, no matter how benign our lives may be in comparison to Venus’s. I believed wholeheartedly that Venus deserved her second chance and found myself cheering for her success.

I am no expert on autism, having no close relatives or friends who live with the disorder, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of Leo’s inner monologues or his behavior, but it seemed very realistic to me, and I thought his character was the pulse that made the heart beat in this book. Leo’s story makes reading this book worthwhile!!

The last quarter of the book, though, was a mess. The way the author went about bringing Venus and Leo back together was highly implausible with entirely too many conveniences and coincidences and was way too rushed. The ending was too pat, and sweet, and didn’t match the tone of the book up that point, but by the time I got to the conclusion, I readily accepted it.

I’ve been wringing my hands over this review, jumping back and forth between mentioning the problems I had or leaving that out, afraid of sounding too self -righteous or showing my ignorance about YA novels, or embarrassing myself by taking it all just a little too seriously.

At the end of the day, I was once again reminded of why I avoid this genre. I feel out of my element to the point where I overthink everything and it sucks the enjoyment out of it for me.

I struggled with the rating on this one. There were some deep valleys, but there were some mountain peaks too, so I’m going to lay the blame on myself for not getting into this book as much as my contemporaries and for not being able to attach the same value to the book as they have. It’s not you, it’s me. Therefore, I’m giving the book the benefit of the doubt despite some misgivings- 3 stars
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Berit Talks Books.
1,999 reviews15.7k followers
March 5, 2018
All The stars and planets for Venus Black🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

This book definitely put a BIG smile on my face..... this is an absolute character driven book with some extremely likable characters and some a little tougher to like.....

Venus is sent to juvenile detention when she is 13 for killing her stepfather.... shortly after Venus is incarcerated her little brother Leo is taken.... Venus spends her five years in juvenile detention bitter and angry with her mother... and worried about and missing her little brother....

More than Venus this book really is about Leo.... a little boy with autism who seems to bring out the best and worst in people.... I believe the author did a very good job with the character of Leo.... he tugged at my heart strings just as much as he did Venus, Tessa, and many others....

This book really is about family and what makes a family.... Venus started this book thinking the only family she had was little brother Leo and ended this book having so much more..... The book was also about forgiveness and understanding and growth..... Venus really had a lot of character growth in this book.... and a lot of that was done through both forgiving and understandingn.... A lot of Venus‘s growth was thanks to a young girl who was probably my favorite character in the book by the name of Piper.... the relationship between them was truly sweet.....

If you are looking for a fast paced thrill of a book, this is not the book for you.... however if you are wanting a book filled with magnificent characters and special moments I’d absolutely suggest picking this up.....

PS: for those of you who have already read this, the ending was just the right color💙

*** i’d like to thank Random House and Net Galley for a copy of this book ***
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,561 reviews5,818 followers
February 10, 2018
3.75 stars

I've backed off from young adult books lately...because they all seem to fall into a couple of categories.


Because magic penis fixes everythang. So when I pick up a book and the main theme is not like that I get a bit excited.
This book starts when Venus is thirteen years old. She has killed her stepfather and is facing the consequences. Then to top off the bad life she is having her mentally challenged brother Leo goes missing.

Later on Venus has finished serving her time and has to start life over.

Now all this was pretty good. It was towards the end of the book that I started to start wiping the bad taste off my tongue..thus the not five stars that I so wanted for this one. I'm going to spoiler tag my hateful feelings part of the book because I think it may just be me and it's one that you need to let just untangle as you read it.

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
Profile Image for Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader.
2,056 reviews30k followers
March 1, 2018
4 emotionally engaging stars to My Name is Venus Black! 🌟 🌟 🌟 🌟

I was enthralled with Venus’ story from the start. She seemed to be the perfect teen- smart, worked hard in school, but she committed a crime, and it must have been a big one. Why did she wake up in a detention center, and why was her mother visibly shaken?

Heather Lloyd’s characterization of Venus, her mother, and her brother with developmental delays, Leo, was impeccable. How would Venus come to terms with what she had done? How does a child spend her formative years in a detention center and reunite with regular life?

Overall, My Name is Venus Black sometimes felt like Young Adult fiction because of the way it’s written; however, the characters, emotions, and subject matter made it worthwhile, engaging, and completely fulfilling.

Thank you to Heather Lloyd, Dial Press, and Netgalley for the complimentary copy. My Name is Venus Black is now available!
Profile Image for Esil.
1,118 reviews1,323 followers
January 21, 2018
This one gets 5 stars for full emotional engagement.

The book opens with Venus Black, then 13 years old, charged with a terrible crime. What we know is that she is furious with her mother and worried sick about her 7 year old brother Leo who has an unnamed condition that is likely autism. What we also know is that Venus’ crime tailspins into another terrible crime. The book then jumps ahead a few years to when Venus is released from the youth detention centre as she tries to find her place in the world.

I can’t say much more about the story without giving away spoilers and this is one that is worth experiencing as it unfolds. What I will say is that, except for the very end, there is nothing predictable about this story. At first, I thought it would be focused on Venus and her crime, but it turns out to be as much about what happens to Leo.

My Name Is Venus Black is written in very straightforward language. But the characters and their relationships are so well depicted. And the emotions feel real and not simple. How do you forgive yourself for the consequences of terrible decisions? How do you forgive other people?

My Name Is Venus Black would probably work as young adult fiction, but it certainly worked for me. I completely fell for Venus and Leo and a couple of the other characters.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
Profile Image for Mary Beth .
377 reviews1,595 followers
March 14, 2018

4.5 stars

Venus is only 13 years old and kills her stepfather, but we do not know the reason why. She blames her mom and is very angry at her. It tears her family apart and it creates a national media firestorm. She is sent to juvenile prison for 6 years.

Her brother, Leo is kidnapped a few days after her arrest and disappears without a trace. Her brother Leo is autistic.
At the age of 19, Venus is released from juvenile prison.

She is so worried about her brother. She now has a fake identity and is determined to escape her painful past. She makes a fresh start in Seattle. Leo's face appears on milk cartons as a missing child and Venus helps her mother find him.

This was hard to believe that this was a debut novel. I loved this book and had problems putting it down. I just wanted to know what was going to happen next. The book was traumatic at the beginning, but it wasn't graphic at all, but there was lots of suspense.

This book was about family and forgiveness. I thought it was beautifully written. This is a YA novel and thought the subject matter was a little tough.

The characters were perfectly well done. I loved Venus, Leo and Piper.

This was a simple fast read and it ended just the way I wanted it too.
I highly recommend.

I want to thank, Netgalley, Random House, and Heather Lloyd for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,851 reviews34.9k followers
April 22, 2018
This is an excellent debut novel......
It grabs your attention from the start with 13 year old Venus sitting in the police station. She admits committing a crime.
Although the crime wasn’t spelled out to us at the start, my 99.9% certainly of what the crime was turned out to be correct. I’m guessing most readers know right away too.
I don’t think it would have mattered one way or another to know the specific reason why Venus went to jail for 5 years in the beginning.
It’s the AFTERMATH of the crime that we need to understand more anyway....
- the unfolding of getting to know the characters -
- the truth that comes out - and continues to come out — keeps this story moving.
- and.....
- the parallel plot about Leo, Venus’s younger half brother, who is mentally challenged, gives this story its heartbeat.

Author, Heather Lloyd packs a powerful emotional punch in this multilayered story....
There are many reasons to love this book for a variety of reason.
It’s sweetly devastating and so profoundly human - incredibly compelling...
- where the past & the future merge together with just the right mix of reality.... and *color*! ( ha...this *color* makes more sense to those who have read this book already). 🙂

It’s very hard to pull away from this novel ....it’s like we are sitting in the little red wagon being pulled along - as content as can be as long as she ( Heather Lloyd) keeps pulling us......and she does smoothly & skillfully - twisting and turning our wagon ride many times, taking us on an unforgettable ride....where by the time we reach the end we don’t realize we’ve stopped breathing.

Love - family and forgiveness are major themes.

Great discussion book!
Great heartfelt book!!!

Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,687 reviews14k followers
February 8, 2018
3.5 Venus is thirteen, her younger brother, Leo is seven and mentally challenged, when a terrible event tears this small family apart. Venus cannot forgive her mother, Inez, for not believing her, and will despise her a little more each day, after Leo goes missing.

Venus will be nineteen before she can confront the world she left behind, new name, no mother, and s beloved brother still missing. We hear many different sides of this story, and it is a story told from the prospective of a child, later a teenager, and a mother who has made many mistakes, but realizes this and keeps trying to bridge gaps. In fact, so many have good intentions in this book it is hard not to feel for them.Families found, not made but so very precious all the same. Had a little trouble processing the simple way this story was written, with the complicated issues within. Didn't really match, and for me a bit of a stumbling block. Still, I loved Venus, how she didn't give up, trying so hard to get a new life, fall in love, the normal things people do everyday. Also loved Leo, with his only right colors,right foods, and all the things he needs for his world to run correctly. Some lovely characters in this novel, and character strength against simple writing made me round up to four stars.

The ending does get a little theatrical, soap operish, but so much happens in such a short period, it would be hard for it not to come off as dramatic . Mostly I was just hoping good things for Venus and Leo
Profile Image for Liz.
1,919 reviews2,358 followers
February 23, 2018
This book grabbed me from the start. Thirteen year old Venus murders her stepfather, but we’re not told the reason why. While she’s incarcerated, her seven year old developmentally challenged brother goes missing.

Venus was bright, the kind of child teachers love. Not the kid you expect to end up in juvie. Leo needs everything just so. There are right colors and wrong colors. After Leo goes missing, he meets Tessa, another pre-teen who takes him under her wing. And then there’s Piper, another child lacking proper parents. Lloyd does a great job of portraying all of these characters. Your heart just goes out to all of them. Over and over, it’s a case of the young having to mother the young. They form families where there are none. There’s a great line that sums up how these “families” interact. “But the stars themselves aren’t actually related to one another, they just look like they belong together”. “Kind of like our family”, she says.

Some parents do the wrong things for the right reasons while others just make bad mistakes. As everyone’s stories intermingle, I realized I’d come to care about everyone and just wanted a happy ending.

This is a well done story that will tug at your heartstrings. Heartwarming is the word that comes to mind.

My thanks to netgalley and Random House for an advance copy of this book.

Profile Image for Susanne.
1,155 reviews36.3k followers
May 12, 2018
2.5 Stars* (rounded up)

Venus Black is in Juvvy. What got her there? Well, she committed one heck of a crime. One she refuses to talk about. And boy, is she angry. At everyone under the sun, but especially at her mother. Her actions, created equal and opposite reactions, and now, her younger brother Leo, who has autism, is missing. Now things are bad bad bad. Five years later, Venus gets out, having obtained a fake identity, which she hopes will help her stay under the radar even though she is extremely recognizable. Her main goal is to find Leo and bring him home. As for her past, well, let’s just see if we can forget about it.. shall we?

While this is a novel that had potential, unfortunately I felt that it was kind of all over the place and it just never came together. In order for me to invest in a novel, I need to care about the characters and Venus and her mother left me wanting. There were also several plot points that I felt were far-fetched - if only I could suspend my belief. That said, several peripheral characters saved the day, Tessa, a friend of Leo’s and Piper, a young girl who befriends Venus. Talk about stealing the show! Piper ran away with it.

I read this with my GR sister Lindsay. Reading it with her also made the experience much better. Thanks for that Linds!

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group - Random House, The Dial Press and Heather Lloyd for an ARC of this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Published on Goodreads and NetGalley on 5.12.18.

Profile Image for Cheri.
1,686 reviews2,242 followers
February 27, 2018

4.5 Stars

”Sometimes I wonder where I've been,
Who I am,
Do I fit in.
Make-believing is hard alone,
Out here on my own.

“We're always provin' who we are,
Always reachin'
For that risin' star
To guide me far
And shine me home,
Out here on my own.”

-- ”Out Here On My Own” – lyrics by Lesley Gore, Michael Gore

Beginning with the epilogue, dated the 12th of September in 1980, you are aware that Venus Black has committed some act that changes the trajectory of her life, as well as the others in her family, her seven year-old brother, Leo, especially, and her mother, Ina. Venus has been accused of committing a crime as this story begins.

”My Name is Venus Black” is about assumptions we make, conclusions we jump to, dismissing those nagging doubts we have about others, dismissing the concerns and complaints of others, wanting life to run smoothly. Repercussions follow, rebounding like echoes off the walls in an empty house, touching everyone who enters. The damage done, eating away at everyone involved. And eventually there is also forgiveness, we hope, for both given and received.

Leo is not your average seven year-old, he has developmental disabilities, emotional difficulties with change, and having his sister Venus taken away from their home, especially at a point of undoubtedly much confusion for him, it unsettling for Leo. He’s lost his most important connection, to the one person who understood him, his unspoken meanings, knew how to calm him down before he would dissolve into rocking back and forth, banging his head against the wall. His mother is lost in her own grief, dealing with all that has occurred, and Leo becomes lost in the shuffle. And then Leo is just… lost.

Leo is a wonderful character that also brings out the best in all of the other characters as he gradually becomes a part of each of their lives, and a character that quickly creates a bond with the reader. Being unaffectedly simple in his viewpoints, you realize how vulnerable that makes him.

This story is unveiled slowly, which I appreciated. There’s not much else I can say without giving too much away, so I’ll just say that I was completely captivated by Leo, and although it took me a tiny bit longer to open my heart as fully with Venus, overall I loved ”My Name is Venus Black” .

Pub Date: 27 Feb 2018

Many thanks for the ARC provided by The Dial Press / Random House Publishing Group – Random House
Profile Image for Kendall.
626 reviews623 followers
February 17, 2018
Ah.... Venus Black you have swooped my heart up! 4.5 stars ladies and gents ;).

Heather Lloyd what a wonderful character driven novel. You have knocked this debut novel out of the park lady! :).

The novel starts out with one of our main characters Venus who at the time is 13 and has been sent to juvenile detention due to killing her stepfather. Shortly after Venus is incarcerated... her little brother Leo has been kidnapped. Venus as you can imagine spends five lonely years in juvenile detention heartbroken and angry with her mother Inez and worried about her brother Leo.

Venus is 19 and is released from juvenile detention. Venus is struggling with confronting her demons and starting a new life. Can she find her brother Leo after all these years?

This is a beautifully written story about love, loss, forgiveness, and faith. As a social worker, I can't tell you enough how much I have seen the heart break that families have endured and it's so amazing to see families that come out stronger in the end based on the heartache that they have endured. Happy endings do happen despite tragedy and it's refreshing to see a story about the powerful impact love has on us.

The characterization was intertwined so well throughout the story and I loved the fact that the story was told from a child's perspective. I highly recommend this book!

I will leave you with my favorite quote:
"You make one wrong move and your whole world gets turned upside down. And then, right when you think it's hopeless, a giant black-haired goddess leans down to tip you over."

This was definitely the right amount of black ;).

Thank you so much to Netgalley, Heather Lloyd, and Random House Publishing for the advanced arc in exchange for my honest review.
Profile Image for Debbie.
425 reviews2,691 followers
February 11, 2018
3.4, as I ride the bus home from high school....

At first I said a middle schooler would love this book, but I’m changing my tune a little. I’m thinking this is more for high schoolers. But saying I thought a middle schooler would like it wasn’t totally off the wall. For four years, I’ve been tween-sitting two kids who are now 11 and 13. I honestly could see both of them liking this book. But the subject matter—a 14-year-old kills her stepdad—might be too heavy for a teenager of any age.

The 11-year-old I sit for loves me to tell her stories. As soon as she gets in my car, she yells gleefully and loudly, “Story!!” and I have to wrack my brain to come up with a good (and G rated) story from my past, because of course she only wants true tales. She tells me she wants to hear tragic stories because they “make me feel.” She is so funny and cool I can’t stand it! She reads big fantasy series multiple times, which endears me to her even more. Also, she reads over my shoulder. If I’m reading something dicey or dark and there are f-words, I shut the book fast, which she thinks is unfair. She and her 13-year-old brother think nothing of the f-word, although they don’t use it themselves, so I shouldn’t worry about corrupting their innocence.

The whole time I was reading this book I was thinking how I’d absolutely let her read over my shoulder. The writing is simplistic and the story is indeed tragic (but with hope sprinkled on top), so this would be just up her alley. But given the crime, I’m not sure her mom would approve. And there is at least one comment that would have made me clamp the book shut pronto-like. I’m thinking that that comment would have to be deleted to make it an acceptable YA book.

Let’s go to the Joy Jar first, because for sure there is a lot to like about this book. It’s tight, and the characters are well-drawn and sympathetic. The language, though simplistic, is utilitarian, moving the story right along at a good clip. The plot, about a girl who murdered her stepdad (no spoiler here; we learn this immediately) and a brother who is no doubt autistic, is unique and intriguing. I found the story engaging, and I did want to find out what would happen. There was some suspense, which was also a plus. Kudos to the author for such a unique plot. Half of the book takes place in Seattle, which is where I live, so I enjoyed reading about my city and a neighboring town. Venus lives in a section of Seattle where one of my daughters lives, so that was really fun to read about. There is drama galore, so my 11-year-old substitute grandchild would dig it.

But unfortunately I had to drag the Complaint Board out of the shed. You knew that was coming!

Complaint Board:

-YA all the way, baby. I’ve beaten this horse to death, so I can shut up about this! The fact that it’s YA isn’t a criticism. It’s a well-written YA book, like I said. I just don’t enjoy many YA books, so that’s the reason it earns a spot on my Complaint Board.

-I’d kill for a semi-colon. Or any complex sentence, in fact. The exciting plot is told with boring, simplistic language. This of course, was my biggest reason for thinking of it as YA. When the sentence structure is simple and there is no jazz or edge, I’m bored and annoyed and it loses points. Here, it sort of feels like a monotone. Included in this complaint is the occasional use of clichés, like “it wiped the smile right off my face.”

-Sigh. Just whose point of view are we hearing now? There are clunky, jolty point-of-view changes. The book is mostly told in first-person, but there are numerous third-person point-of-view changes, all within one chapter. I would have been a lot happier if each point-of-view change had gotten its own chapter. As it was, it was jolting and sometimes confusing.

-Please tell me what happened! The details of the crime aren’t revealed until way late in the book. I’m not sure this was necessary, but I do know it was frustrating. Tell me already! It was unnecessary, fabricated suspense in my opinion.

-Not sure I buy THAT! There were a few things that I just don’t buy.

-Pass me the syrup. The ending was just plain Hallmark-y. That’s a big demerit in my book.

-God, oh God. Any hint of religion and I usually run, and the author brought God to the table at the end of the book. Not pages and pages of God, but enough to bug me. Just my own hang-up, I know. The fact that the very last paragraph of the epilogue is total God put the icing on the cake. Why choose to end the book on a religious note? You could end any book like that; it adds nothing to the story, in my humble opinion. I know, I know, tomatoes might be headed my way…

So as you can imagine, my hand is sore from writing on the Complaint Board. Let me repeat, though, that the characters are well-drawn and likeable —I was just not invested in them emotionally. And I was impressed that the author came up with this unique and engaging plot. But put the simplistic language together with the sappy ending and a dash of God talk, and it adds up to a 3-star read for me.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
Profile Image for Caro (Bookaria).
585 reviews18.4k followers
April 23, 2018
An excellent book about new beginnings, family relationships, and forgiveness.

When I first started listening to this audiobook, I did not expect to end up loving it. As the novel progressed I became irrevocably engaged with the characters and their stories.

The book begins with Venus being released from prison and follows her journey as she tries to start a new life for herself while at the same time wondering what became of Leo, her younger brother who has been missing for years.

In prison, Venus served a sentence for a crime she commited when she was 13. The story is told from alternating points of view and takes place in Seattle and California. The novel has great characters, elements of family dysfunction, and forgiveness.

Overall, I loved it and recommend it to all readers.
Profile Image for Marialyce (absltmom, yaya).
1,910 reviews727 followers
February 21, 2018
4.5 totally intriguing stars

This was quite the story of family, love lost and regained, and the proof that love exists not because of blood but because of kindness, goodness, and concern from those around you.

Venus is thirteen and lives with her mother Inez, a step father, and a beloved younger brother Leo who is mentally handicapped. For all intents and purposes, Venus is Leo's caregiver, she adores him, understands him, and keeps him close. He looks to her for guidance, for patterns, for routines that he is comfortable with, and most especially for the love that he really can't ever understand.

Venus is often troubled but is quite the straight laced bright young girl. However, when an awful occurrence happens, Venus is thrown into a juvenile detention home where she is confined for five years. In that time span, Leo goes missing, taken by the brother of her step father where they wind up in the home of a tattoo artist and his young daughter. We learn details of his existence and we follow him as he grows. In bits and pieces we also learn of what happened to Venus and how she never forgot her brother and will strive to find and be with him.

The characters that Ms Lloyd created are amazing. They represent that life oftentimes is difficult, parents are not always perfect, and that blood is not always the deciding factor in who we love and care for. Love has no boundaries life can continue to grow and blossom in the very worst of circumstances, sometimes seeing that tragedy can bring hope to all those who have seemed to have lost it all.

As Venus eventually finds out, running from one's past can never allow a person to see a future. The characters were all ordinary people but extraordinary circumstances can change your life. It did theirs. "You must remember, family is often born of blood, but it doesn't depend on blood. Nor is it exclusive of friendship. Trenton Lee Stewart wrote, "Family members can be your best friends, you know. And best friends, whether or not they are related to you, can be your family.”In this book everyone finds out what family truly is.

Thanks you to Heather Lloyd, Random House Publishing, and NetGalley for providing this reader with an ARC of this endearing book.
May 4, 2018
2.5 stars. The writing was good, but the storyline didn’t work for me.

I am definitely the outlier in saying that I couldn’t connect with this novel. The writing was simplistic, but enjoyable. The storyline and characters, however, were all over the place for me.

The novel follows Venus Black, a thirteen-year-old straight A student in juvenile prison for a crime committed in her family home. The narration skips between Venus and others. The switches in narrators felt jumpy and confusing, often times switching perspectives as quickly as paragraphs with no clear cut transition.

For me, the storyline itself had several HIGHLY implausible scenarios. I was shaking my head and thinking, this can’t possibly be happening? Toward the end of the book, the implausibility took on a whole new level when everything seemed to work out and find its picture-perfect ending. It concluded far too smooth and neat for me.

The writing had potential to be a good story, so I would definitely give this author another try. I am the outlier with my feelings on this book so please read the numerous other raving reviews before making a decision on this novel. I read this with my wonderful GR friend Susanne and strangely enough, we both felt the same disconnect with the story. Together we sit at the outlier table.

Thank you to NetGalley, Random House Publishing Group and Heather Lloyd for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!
Profile Image for Karen.
552 reviews1,083 followers
February 4, 2018
This is a somewhat dark coming of age story of Venus Black 13 yrs old, who commits a gruesome crime at the beginning of the story, and you don’t really find out the details till much later in the book.
It’s a book about family, forgiveness, and love.

I struggled wanting to pick this book back up each time to continue reading. I just don’t know why.
The reason that I am giving it four stars instead of three is that the author really made me love many of the characters.. the 7 yr old autistic brother of Venus, and some people who come into the picture later in the book, she really did well on the character development.

Many thanks to NetGalley, Random House and The Dial Press for a early digital copy!
Profile Image for Lisa.
607 reviews229 followers
March 12, 2018
A grabbing and poignant family drama about love, forgiveness, redemption and moving on.

Venus Black is 13-years-old, a normal teenager, and a good student with a love for astronomy. But she commits a shocking crime that tears her family apart and puts them all in the media spotlight. Venus refuses to talk about what happened and why, other than to blame her mother. She is ultimately sent to prison. Shortly after her arrest, Venus’s little brother Leo who is developmentally disabled also goes missing. When Venus is released from prison at 19, and she starts over in Seattle with a new identity. She rents a room, gets a job as a waitress and helps take care of her landlord’s nine-year-old precocious niece, Piper, who makes Venus think about Leo. She misses Leo tremendously and is frustrated by not knowing whether he is dead or alive. Venus’s mother reaches out to Venus to make amends for events leading up to the crime, but Venus refuses to forgive her mother for her lack of support and her inability to find Leo. When new information about Leo’s disappearance comes to light the two must put aside differences to extend the search.

My Name is Venus Black is an engaging chronicle of a family torn apart by a shocking crime and it’s aftermath. Venus, with her wild black curly hair and astute mind is endearing, as are all of the younger characters in this captivating story. Heather Lloyd has skillfully crafted a poignant, thoughtful and moving story that grabs your attention from the beginning—in the police station. With superb writing, and unique characters that propel the narrative, this gem of a debut novel is bound to entertain young and old alike.

Thanks to LibraryThing, The Dial Press and Heather Lloyd for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for a honest review.
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews579 followers
February 6, 2018
Coming of age can be a beautiful thing, but for Venus Black, it was a dark and emotionally tumultuous time, a time of pure hell, pain and brutal loneliness. Venus wouldn’t talk about the night she committed the most shocking of crimes, not even when she knew it would shred the fragile bonds that stitched her family together. Not even when her brother went missing, because what good would it do? She was guilty, she would pay the price, but was it really her debt to pay?

Five years later, still just a teen, Venus is released from prison, alone, broke and with nowhere to turn. Discover the strength of a young woman who is determined to make a fresh start, to keep her past in the shadows and to never be hurt or betrayed again. Will it mean sealing her heart off from the world? Can she do that and learn to heal?

Ghosts from her past will haunt her until she sets her demons free and to do that, she must discover what happened to her brother and reveal the truth of the night the lights went out on her young life.

MY NAME IS VENUS BLACK by Heather Lloyd is the tale of a young girl in her darkest moments who must claw her way into the light through her own pure grit and determination. Along the way, she will learn the true meaning of love, trust and hope, but not until she has taken on more than her share of pain. Witness Venus grow in strength and character through the raw and riveting words of Ms. Lloyd in this superbly written study of humanity at its worst, best, strongest and most endearing. More than one soul will be saved by forgiveness, more than one soul will be forever changed by the actions and chain reactions of one fateful night for one young teen who had no one to keep her safe.

I was completely taken by the power of Heather Lloyd’s pen. The beauty of this story is in its stark nature, its emotional turmoil and finally in a renewed faith in a world that holds the key to hope.
Strong characters, heartbreaking scenes and untold secrets, sometimes life can be unfair, sometimes it teaches us strength and courage, MY NAME IS VENUS BLACK is a perfect example.

I received a complimentary ARC edition from Random House Publishing Group!

Publisher: The Dial Press (February 27, 2018)
Publication Date: February 27, 2018
Genre: Coming of Age | Family Issues | Crime
Print Length: 368 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Monica.
506 reviews156 followers
February 4, 2018
This was such an amazing story! It was artfully narrated by several different main characters. Although dealing with a lot of painful issues, the hope for humanity and happy endings was crystal clear.

As I appreciate with young adult fiction, we are spared any graphic details. Some pieces of the past aren’t revealed until the ending so by that point, I felt very connected to Venus and her brother Leo.

Thanks so much to NetGalley and publishers for an advanced readers copy of this wonderful book!
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
547 reviews966 followers
August 1, 2020
4.5 stars

I loved My Name is Venus Black. While I generally abhor suggesting that one book is very similar to another (if you like this one, you will surely like this other one… kind of thing), I do feel in this instance that this book is an exception. I feel confident that those who liked Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and A Man Called Ove will also like My Name is Venus Black (realizing that few books if any will rise to the genius of A Man Called Ove). Venus Black has had a tough life; my heart broke for her from the opening page of the book. She has committed an egregious crime (see my comments about this below) that is not fully explained until the end. While I would have preferred to have understood the nature of the crime sooner, I still very much enjoyed the story and loved following Venus as she slowly got her life back together. Venus is likeable, and I was rooting for her from the start. I also felt the side story with her brother Leo was a meaningful addition to the story.

I would have given the book 5 stars, but for a significant portion of the book I was uncomfortable because Venus killed her stepfather years before, and the crime is not explained fully until towards the end of the book. I loved her character and sympathized with her but was hung up on what caused her to kill someone. Once the crime is fully detailed, I was happy to find that my initial read of Venus’s character was correct, and that the crime had unfolded drastically different than I felt it had been presented.

My Name is Venus Black is a gem of a read.

Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews. For more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
February 13, 2018
This was an epic read with fantastic characters! The children charaters really spoke to my heart and I felt a connection with them. I could relate to the dysfunction and awful things that occurred in this book. This story wasn’t just heartbreaking, it was also powerful and a must read! This was a beautifully written story that I won’t soon forget.
Profile Image for Kelli.
844 reviews389 followers
March 22, 2018
This is a popular YA debut novel with many reviews since it basically burst on the scene with its beautiful cover and 80s setting, both wise choices to appeal to adult readers. My challenge here is to identify whether the issues I had with the book are born of its genre. I’ve decided I don’t think they are. The simplistic writing and somewhat clunky point of view changes didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story. Leo was the magnet that held me to the story, but I thought the other characters were well drawn and the story dark but compelling for a good portion of the book. What made this a 3 Star book for me was the ending/latter portion, which relied on too many unrealistic coincidences and felt rushed and way too neat for such a messy cast of characters.
Profile Image for Marie.
143 reviews44 followers
June 5, 2018
This was such an emotionally engaging family drama. It immediately drew me in with a dramatic event, hungry to learn more and understand the motives. The characters are all flawed, making poor choices, that are often cringe worthy. In the end, there is some degree of empathy in understanding each other’s poor decisions and perhaps an understanding that they could move forward together.

Venus Black, a rule follower and excellent student goes to jail for murdering her step-father. Shortly afterwards, her younger autistic brother goes missing. The story is told from many points of view including those of Venus, Venus’s mother, Venus’s brother Leo, and Leo’s kidnapper. It is a mystery, family drama and a coming of age novel. It is compulsively readable and absorbing. There are characters to fall in love with and others to despise. It is definitely geared to the young adult audience and these readers will likely enjoy it the most.
Profile Image for Michelle.
650 reviews182 followers
April 3, 2018
My Name is Venus Black opens up with Venus being interrogated for a horrific crime. She does not plead innocence but yet she blames her mother. Venus Black is a 13 straight A student and adoring big sister. So what happened on that fateful night? Is it related to the disappearance of her autistic brother Leo?
Sensational story that it is the media run wild with it. Venus for her part shuts down. She spends her time in juvenile hall with her head down and her mouth shut. When she is released her first instinct is to run; to recreate herself with a new identity. But she can't let go of memories of her brother and despite her attempts to insulate herself she can't help but fall in love with a young girl who reminds her of her former self. By the end Venus has come into her own, learning that she can't step into her future while ignoring her past.
Profile Image for Suzy.
325 reviews202 followers
April 5, 2018
I haven’t had much reading time lately due to other commitments, but I can promise that I was looking forward to each and every time I was able to pick up this book.

What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This book was fabulous. I had no idea what to expect going in except of what I read in all of my friends’ reviews. I certainly didn’t realize this was a YA novel because it didn’t read like one. No matter if you normally read YA books or not (I typically do not), everyone will enjoy this story.

I feel that the character development in this book was outstanding. Leo was my favorite. The best part was watching him grow into the boy he became at the end of the book.

Speaking of that ending....loved everything about it. It was everything I hoped for. It is a book about forgiveness and what makes family a family.
Highly recommend!
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