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The Stars and the Blackness Between Them

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Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

312 pages, Hardcover

First published September 17, 2019

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Junauda Petrus

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,243 reviews
Profile Image for emma.
1,823 reviews48.7k followers
March 19, 2022
Magical realism is the best genre.

There. I said it.

You can argue with me all you want, but you would be wrong and it would be sad for you.

Contemporaries are cool, but zero magic or mythical creatures or whimsical elements of any kind. Deal breaker.

Fantasy is rad, but in the end aren’t you just coping with the crushing blow of knowing you will never get your Hogwarts letter / fall down a rabbit hole / otherwise engage in a charmingly random activity that launches you into a quest?

Magical realism is literally just like “here. You can have this. This magic is for you. It’s right next to you.”

Magical realism is why this book, which was around a 3.5 star read for me the whole time I read it, launched up to 4 or 4.5 based on the last 2 pages alone.

I am a sucker for anything about the beauty and magic of everyday life, and this gave me that and more.

It can be hard for me to adjust to reading in dialects / accents that are different from mine (and that’s on me as a reader, not on this book). But this was so, so so so soso worth it. And so beautifully written.

Bottom line: Simply a dream.

the last 2 pages of this are among the most beautiful i've ever read.

review to come / 4 or 4.5 stars

currently-reading updates

abandoning my previous tbr and focusing on books by Black authors - please join me!!


thanks to the publisher for the copy
Profile Image for may ➹.
481 reviews1,957 followers
February 2, 2021
— you can find this review and others on my blog

4.5 stars

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is a book I don’t think I’ll ever forget. The way it made me feel, the way it was written—everything about it feels like it was a gift to this world that I wasn’t worthy of experiencing.

My first thought upon finishing was just, “Oh my god.” There are no other words for how I felt, because this book was absolutely gorgeous. I don’t know how exactly to describe it, but I teared up so many times reading it. I’m tearing up right now as I write this review.

The book follows two Black girls, Audre and Mabel, who must figure out their place in the world as both of their lives are changed drastically. Audre is forced out of her home when her mother discovers her secret girlfriend, and when the two meet, they become friends and more.

“Life is hard for we women, because we strong and the world ain’t wan’ to love us for it.”

It feels like this book opened up a well inside of me. It was such an emotional reading experience, and once I started reading it, it did not let me go. Not only is the writing and prose itself beautifully done, but just the way the author tackles certain things is gorgeous too—the ending of this book in particular made me let out a gentle “oh” at its beauty.

There’s just something about the way Junauda Petrus wrote this book. It’s ownvoices, so not only did it feel like it was crafted with love and the comfort of knowing, “I’ve lived this life and this is my story”, but it just feels like it was infused with magic.

Both Audre and Mabel were amazing characters, and I loved reading their stories so much. I felt for Audre and the way she was horribly mistreated by her mother for her sexuality, and I felt for Mabel and the way her leukemia-like illness was taking over her life. While my experiences aren’t the same as theirs, especially as a non-Black POC, any story involving homophobia makes me really distraught, and leukemia is something extremely personal to me, so I felt so very deeply for them.

Plus, their growth over the book was captivating to follow; this truly was a character-driven novel and I LOVED it. One of the most intriguing things about this book, though, is that it’s written in a way that doesn’t fully allow you to see their relationships with one another grow. And while I did wish there was more, I also thought it was brilliant how the author managed to make me care so much about the characters without that much page time.

On that note, if you love books about family, this is a book for you. Because there were some family-related scenes that my heart just absolutely broke over. Audre has a kind and caring father, and Mabel has the cutest little brother and loving and supportive parents. Reading Mabel’s story in particular and seeing how her family was affected kind of killed me a little inside, because it reminded me of my past self.

Other things I loved in this book were the way that Audre and Mabel talked (in AAVE), because it made it so authentically Black, and I feel like Black readers will truly love it. There were also poems in between sections (written after each of the zodiac seasons), and if the regular prose don’t convince you of this book’s beauty, the poetry certainly will!!

[…] she is killing me softly and I think if I have to die, let it be softly. In her arms, in her smell, in her gap.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them is not only a story of two Black girls navigating a world that seems to reject them and also learning to love themselves and each other, but also a story of the connections we form with other people, our friends and family, the people we never want to let go of—and what it means when it seems like everything is trying to rip you apart.

It’s also about how we got about our day living our lives, when death looms on the horizon, and it’s a love letter to our home, whether it be our homeland or in the stars. And it’s of course a love letter to queer people, Black people, and queer Black people, and an absolutely stunning depiction of what it means to love yourself and love others, as queer Black people.

I truly cannot recommend this book enough. If you love emotional books, if you love gorgeous writing, if you love f/f, this book is for you. It’s the quiet, absolutely beautiful story about the tender love between two Black girls, and I won’t be getting over it any time soon.

:: rep :: Trinidadian lesbian MC, Black lesbian MC, Black (including Trinidadian) side characters, Black (including Trinidadian & South African) wlw side characters

:: content warnings :: homophobic violence, homophobia, death (off-page) and themes of dying, terminal illness

Thank you to Penguin for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on this blog tour! This did not affect my opinions in any way. All quotes are from an advance copy and may differ in final publication.
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,309 followers
December 18, 2019
Wow. Wow wow wow. I spent most of this book not thinking it would get me emotional, but it absolutely destroyed me in the end. I think this is a f/f YA that flew a little under the radar in 2019 and I hope it gets more time in the spotlight going into the new year. If you are participating in f/f February and also intend to read Black authors (aka my 2020 plans) then this is a MUST READ. Warnings for some emotional intensity - one of the main characters is suffering from a mystery illness and that is a huge part of the book, and the other main character experiences homophobia from her mother - but ultimately I can't recommend this enough.

Also! I know a lot of people organize readathons around zodiac signs and astrology and this would be a PERFECT BOOK for that as well! To show time passing, each sign gets a poem as you move into that season.

This is a book about queer identity, specifically queer Black identity. It's a celebration of love, understanding, empathy, traditions, culture, new possibilities, and unheard stories. Please, please read it. Trigger warnings down below, but be aware that those TWs include spoilers.

TW: Homophobia/homophobic rhetoric, internalized homophobia, terminal illness, sparing mentions of homophic abuse from a family member and homelessness (this is a side character whose story only takes up about one chapter in the book)

Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.6k followers
April 25, 2021
"I think what many parents struggle with, mine included, is that they may not know how to love us in the way we need. I think that being a parent can bring up a lot of your own fears and traumas and a lot of parents don't know how to not pass that on to their kids."

I thought I would like this book more than I did. We were off to a good start; I really liked the two main characters, Audre and Mabel, and was excited for them to meet. Audre lives in Trinidad with her mother, who, when she finds out about her daughter's relationship with another girl, sends her to the States to live with her father. This is where she meets Mabel, who loves her nerdy dad and her passionate mother and Whitney Houston and cookies. But when Mabel is diagnosed with a rare cancer, their time is suddenly limited and they will have to learn how to let go of their newfound relationship that only just started to blossom into something deeper.

Let's start with the positive things: I always assumed that Audre was named after Audre Lorde, the famous Black, lesbian activist and poet - and turns out I was right. It fits her. Audre is a strong, determined, empathic, lesbian, young woman with a deep connection to her environment and ancestors and she will bow to no one. I loved Junauda's writing and her sensitivity, I loved how she wrote a YA novel that feels modern and yet has such strong roots in spirituality and the powers of healing. I also loved to see a book with so many complex and queer BIPOC women. This book is an oder to femininity and the erotic, to female friendships and love.

And now on to a few things that I didn't love as much: I didn't care for the star sign poems introducing a new part of the book - mostly because they were quite complex and went over my head, which is fair. This book surely wasn't written with a white, male audience in mind. And yet the poetry felt very complicated for YA. I'm not saying that teenagers and young adults are stupid, I'm saying it might need a lot of reading up on history and astrology to really get what's going on here and how they add to the story. I certainly wouldn't have picked up on Lorde and her theory of the erotic if I hadn't discussed it in a class on feminism at uni.
Something that annoyed me were the POVs that to me felt like they were interrupting and distracting from the story that I was here for in the first place: Mabel's and Audre's relationship. While I would totally read a book about Afua, a (fictional) Black writer on the death row after being convicted for a crime that he didn't commit, the focus on his character took up too much space. And while Queenie surely is one of my favourite characters of this book, her story felt misplaced, too, and I would rather have a separate novella or novel with her as the main character. I see how their lives are interconnected with Mabel's and Audre's, but their stories diverted my attention and I could feel myself being less and less involved in the story and even losing interest.

Luckily the main plot picked up again though and I got super emotionally invested once more. I also kind of expected a rather unconventional ending and I though it was beautifully done.

In conclusion: great start, rough moments in the middle, good ending. Can definitely recommend.

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Profile Image for Jesse On Youtube .
66 reviews4,473 followers
December 27, 2019
When 16 year old Audre’s homophobic mother catches her with her girlfriend, she is sent to live in Minneapolis - thousands of miles away from her partner, family, and beloved Trinidad.
What does it mean to be uprooted? Despite her grief, Audre meets Mabel, and an undeniable attraction - and love - blooms between them.

The audiobook is the ONLY way to read this book. Partially read by the author, the girls’ two distinct voices weave together with the cohesion and beauty of a tapestry. Much of the criticism has been for the writing style; but many (white) reviewers fail to recognize that Junauda wrote the story in oratory format - in the tradition of Afro & Caribbean storytelling. It is an ode to the passing of stories from elders to youth through lips versus paper and this is why the audiobook is so necessary.

Thematically, I was dazzled. Black female identity is depicted as a celestial experience and I loved seeing black girls situated within nature and reclaiming their relation to it. Thanks to the legacy of slavery and colonization, our connection with nature as black folks has been severed and replaced with deep feelings of fear, mistrust, and an apprehension that feels ancestral; passed down. In this book, we see black women and black men reclaim their identity as beings of nature - to earth and water in particular - it was regenerating. I applaud the representation of terminal illness, incarceration, coming of age, the importance of dreams and culture, as well as the struggle between loving God, but also loving queerness. The female sexuality and embracing of the Zodiac (the latter of which I admittedly am not a fan) were both brilliant aspects of the story.

While I loved each word of this book, I hear and support the voices of concerned Trini reviewers who have explained that the representation of Trinidad is antiquated and the Creole language poorly translated. It’s important to remember that just because a book is OwnVoices doesn’t mean the representation will always be good or even accurate. As a reviewer pointed out, people FROM a culture still have the capacity to misrepresent said culture. This is why we must emphasize an array of voices even within a community as no One person’s experience - or perspective - can encompass the glittering knowledge of the Whole.
Profile Image for Bri.
Author 1 book177 followers
December 27, 2019
OK OK OK now that I’ve had a few days to wholly bask in the sheer magic of this book’s creation...

This is my favorite read of the year, hands down. Juanada Petrus is a fabulous storyteller. She managed to incorporate soo many people’s lives in many dimensions into this book and it didn’t feel overwhelming or extraneous or unnecessary. Her language was lyrical and concise and Black as hell. I loved the joining of vastly different parts of the diaspora: a Black girl from middle America (Mabel) and a Trini gyal (Audre).

Another thing I love: there is so much Black queer tenderness within this book. The healing and inherent connection to earth and our ancestors and magic and intimacy!!! I lived for it. So many loving relationships too!!!!!!! Good dads and good friends and good strong smart women.

My biggest point of applause (which is a phrase I just made up) is that TSATBBT manages to incorporate tragic realities of Blackness and queerness (incarceration, homophobia, displacement) as well as terminal illness within a story that’s so full of beauty and love and healing. I would read Mabel and Audre’s story a thousand times over. It’s exactly the kind of YA queer Black teens and young adults deserve.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,463 reviews8,571 followers
March 14, 2020
Shout out to my best friend Bri for reviewing this book and getting it on my radar! The Stars and the Blackness Between Them carries a whole freaking lot of what the world needs right now: tenderness, radical love, and a centering of marginalized voices rife with nuance and feeling. The novel follows two black teens from different backgrounds: Mabel, who lives in Minneapolis and worries about her ex Terrell and a mystery illness that has affected her all summer, and Audre, who lives in Trinidad but gets sent to America after her mother catches her with her girlfriend. Audre and Mabel’s connection sparks a level of understanding and magic that enthralls them both, though Mabel’s illness tests their resilience, especially as issues of incarceration and displacement loom over them as well.

I appreciated Junauda Petrus’s novel because it feels like she cares so much about her characters. She never subjects them to cheap plot twists or under-developed side conflicts that detract from their characterization. The characters go through rough stuff for sure, like homophobia and terminal illness. Yet, Petrus imbues The Stars and the Blackness Between Them with a healing energy that speaks to the power of healthy intimate relationships, with lovers, parents, friends, and writers. While the inclusion of narratives outside Mabel and Audre’s sometimes distracted me or felt a tad out of place – though I recognize their importance and why Petrus included them – I would still recommend this novel to those searching for a queer, black love story that embraces its characters’ pain as well as their joyousness through connection.
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,542 followers
March 19, 2020
CW: homophobia, unaccepting parent, parental physical abuse, talk of suicidal ideations, masturbation, leukemia.

Do you ever read a book so tender and soft that it leaves you feeling at peace with yourself and the world after reading it? Well, that was this book for me. The Stars and the Blackness between us is the kind of quiet book that gets under your skin and seeps into your bones until you feel yourself inside of it. Or at least, that’s how I felt.

It’s so well written, the words and sentences so lyrical that it made me feel every single emotion it was conveying like I were feeling it myself. The only thing in the writing that gave me pause is the poems for every zodiac signs that were sprinkled throughout. Most of them went over my head and I couldn’t quite catch the meaning of. But that’s probably just a me problem.

Full review posted on my blog : Word Wonders
Profile Image for Meagan.
333 reviews175 followers
Shelved as 'diverse-ya-tbr'
August 29, 2019
😍😍😍 That cover! That Title! The universe knew I needed more black lesbian fiction in my life 😍. Can't wait!
Profile Image for Christopher Jacob.
Author 1 book
January 4, 2020
I’ll be honest, I probably should have lowered my expectations going into this. I probably should have more tolerance about it, but if it’s one thing I promised myself for 2020, it's that I’m not accepting half measures of representation. Not for my queerness, not for my blackness and definitely not for my Caribbean heritage.

I want to start with the good. First off, I love how poetic the writing is; It truly does give the feeling of floating on water. There’s such a silky-smooth cadence to Petrus’ writing that you can feel the rhythm in the background. I’m a big fan of music theory and the effects of Lo-Fi music on mental and emotional health, and a lot of my playlist matched up well with this book’s writing.
Another good thing, is how comfortable characters get to be in their blackness and spirituality. A book without anti-blackness or some kind of underlying message about racism is refreshing in the current YA climate. Sometimes you just want to read about Black kids being Black kids and understanding their Blackness in a unique way, without the underlying tone of “Oh yeah, race relations in America are trash.” Extra points because the majority of the focus, wasn’t on the abuse of a queer character.

So now, we get into the things I didn’t like. As much as I loved the writing’s cadence and flow, it is exceedingly flowery and purple; tediously so at times. A simple idea that requires two sentences, is fluttered about and extended by an excess of words. This is a result of another glaring problem, but I’ll save that for later, since it’s my biggest gripe of all.

Secondly, we have the relationships between characters. This mostly boils down to one thing, but again, I’ll save it till the end. What I will say is, I don’t think the relationship dynamics are given enough time to develop. There was time spent on Queenie’s backstory that I felt could have been better spent developing Mabel and Audre. Yes, they’re together at the end (In their own way) and yes hurrah for good F/F representation, but it feels cheap and watered down in the face of everything, especially that ending.

I think what upset me the most about the relationships, was hearing about Neri near the end of the story. I found myself wanting to experience her letter rather than Audre’s rambling or Queenie’s backstory. What hurt the most about it was, it gave an excellent opportunity to focus on and expose some of queer living in Trinidad, something I as a queer Trinidadian myself have never seen explored anywhere.

Which brings me to my final and biggest gripe of this entire book, Audre. Now, I want to preface this by saying, I’m not policing anyone’s Identity. Having lived away from Trinidad for many years myself, I am in no place to say I’m more Trinidadian than anyone or a better person because I actually live here. However, there is a huge problem I have with Audre, her dialect.
Audre’s dialect reads like it’s the gentrified, antiquated cousin of contemporary Trini dialect. Its syntax is completely off, and ends up reading like janky English, instead of an actual Carribean dialect. I’ll give an example.

‘I is crying so hard, my body is shudder and breath and wet with tears’

This, does not sound like a Trinidadian teenager. I’m not going to rewrite or change the author’s words since that feels a tad disrespectful, but, the use of a predicate, the conjugation of certain verbs and the use of certain slang is off. She says words like ‘whoop’ when a Trinidadian would say ‘beat’ She says words like ‘aint’ when a Trinidadian would say ‘not.’

“I ain’t afraid of him!”

Sounds American, or given the benefit of the doubt, Trini-American.

“I not afraid of he!”

Is 100% Trinidadian. So why does Audre speak more like the first and not the second? I feel bad saying it but, Audre reads more like a caricature of a young Trinidadian, told through the voice of a senior expat, rather than a contemporary Trinidadian teenager. Which brings me back to my point from earlier, it truly does feel like there’s a struggle with the youthful Trinidadian voice, because of how many words it takes to express an idea.

I didn’t go into this wanting to hate it. Queer, black F/F? Do you know how many of my boxes that ticks? I’m really disappointed I couldn’t love this more, as from the author’s writing, I know I can enjoy her work. I feel like if I wasn’t so hung up on the missteps in the Trinidadian portions of the book, I might have enjoyed it more.

Profile Image for temi.
82 reviews27 followers
Want to read
April 10, 2019
so apparently i was found passed out in my room after reading the summary of this book. wow
Profile Image for Lucie.
606 reviews233 followers
June 20, 2020
TW: Terminal Illness & Homophobia

This was on track to be 5 stars but the very end confused and disappointed the hell out of me?? I loved the overall story and the emotions I felt while reading. I thought the writing was done beautifully, especially the descriptions of the feeling of love, acceptance, and physical bodies. Admittedly I at first did have a hard time with the Trinidadian Creole Audre's perspective is written in, but listening to the audiobook remedied that and the audiobook is exceptionally well done. I also want to note that the Creole used in this book has been criticized for not being completely accurate by Trinidadian people (notably Saajid: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eauv7...).

This dealt with some topics I didn't expect it to. Based on the synopsis I didn't expect the illness Mabel experiences to be so bad, but it is a terminal illness and we see Mabel come to terms with the idea of dying young. We find this out in something like the second chapter so I don't consider it a spoiler, and I think it's an important note. As a person who hasn't experienced that I thought it did the topic justice, especially as it tied in the U.S. criminal justice system and unjust incarceration of black men.

The entire story felt so heartfelt and I felt so deeply for each character we met. Unfortunately for me how a story ends really affects my resulting view of a book. To me the ending just didn't fit. It was abrupt and employed too much of a sort of "magical-ness"?
Profile Image for BookOfCinz.
1,406 reviews2,375 followers
June 29, 2020
The Blackness between the stars is the melanin in your skin

What a beautiful, multi-layered, tender, moving debut novel by Junauda Petrus.
The Starts and the Blackness Between Them is told from the perspective of two sixteen year old girls who are both navigating their ever changing worlds and trying to carve our a space for themselves and who they want to be.

We meet Audre who lives in Trinidad and Tobago with her very strict and religious mother and her stepfather. Audre’s grandmother Queenie is one of her favourite persons, she teaches her to be bold, to harness her power and shine her light. Audre enjoys her life in Trinidad and Tobago but that comes to an end when her mother catches her with her secret girlfriend who is the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s mother is ashamed, she immediately decides to send Audre to Minneapolis to live with her father she does not have a relationship with. Audre is plucked from her familiar world and thrust into very scary and unfamiliar space, that is until she meets Mabel.

Mabel lives in Minneapolis with her parents and her younger brother. She is trying to figure out herself and her how she feels about her ex Terrell and her feelings toward her friend Jada. She spends her summer vacation with gardening with her father and having great family time. She is having a great summer, expect for being very lethargic. Mabel meets Audre when she visits with her father for dinner- they hit if off immediately. They are inseparable as Mabel guides Audre through American culture, her school system, Audre in return shares her experience growing up in Trinidad and Tobago. Both of their world begins to crumble when Mabel is diagnosed with a disease that will change the trajectory of their lives.

I’ll be honest, I cannot tell the last time I read a YA novel. It is generally a genre that is hit or miss for me. This book came on my radar because I was RebelWomenLit posting about it being their book club selection. I did my research and found out it was set in the country I am currently living. I am so happy to experience this book and the author. This book is so well written, so layered and showcases so many facets of queer teenage life. I love that the author decided to make the character a Trini because it is not often we (me) read about the experience of a queer Caribbean teenager- I love that a place was created for this.

I really enjoyed being immersed in this novel and I highly recommend you add this to your list! Read it and then give it to the teenager in your life!
Profile Image for Liv Morris.
50 reviews18 followers
August 30, 2019
This is, hands down, one of the most interesting, original YA books I’ve ever read. I’m incredibly glad I got the chance to read it, and I’m a bit at a loss as to how to describe it. There are a lot of different threads here, all of them working together to illustrate interconnectedness, the link between people, between the past and the present, between the body and the spirit. It’s a spiritual book, rooted in both New Age and historical Black sensibilities. This spirituality is so deeply felt that you don’t have to believe in things like astrology (which features heavily) in order to be moved.

The story is mainly character- and theme-focused, and it moves with the zodiac seasons, jumping from Aries to Taurus to Gemini and so forth. Occasionally, these gaps in time feel a bit like a stutter; sometimes characters will forge relationships “off-screen,” so to speak, and I found myself wishing that I could’ve seen more of their interactions, especially when it came to Audre and her father. But Mabel and Audre’s voices and inner lives develop so steadily and realistically that it’s easy to forgive the book’s minor flaws. The larger time jumps - or time mergings, perhaps, the weaving together of the protagonists’, Queenie’s, and Aufa’s youths - are handled deftly and were perhaps my favorite part of the book. So many threads, all of them coming together in a way that reinforces a theme of solidarity and transcendence.

One thing that I really appreciate about a lot of children’s/YA books I’ve read this year is the kindness that permeates them. This is a book about love, and it’s a book that loves. It loves its characters and treats them with the respect they deserve. The narrative never punishes them for forging strong bonds with one another or for standing up for what they believe - their love, hope, and spirituality are portrayed as powerful rather than naive. They struggle, but they ultimately maintain their dignity. Please, please read this book.
Profile Image for kav (xreadingsolacex).
177 reviews346 followers
July 20, 2020
"...as Black folks we are limitless. That, maybe, our blackness holds ancient cosmic memory. What if our wisdom comes from our dreams, not just churches and Bibles?"

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus is one of the most beautiful novels I have ever read. This moving contemporary follows Mabel and Audre, two sapphic Black MCs who fall in love with each other over the course of this novel. Audre is kicked out of her house and forced to move from Trinidad to America after her mother discovers her romantic interest in girls, and once she arrives in America, Mabel takes Audre under her wing. Little do they know, however, that Mabel's life will soon be turned upside down, and the two come together to navigate their complicated realities.

Quite frankly, this novel is not what I expected.

In fact, it is so much better.

Reading this novel...almost felt like a spiritual experience? TSATBBT deals with so many larger-than-life themes that it truly does feel spiritual and inspirational at times.

This novel is simultaneously so raw and real, while also being out-of-this-world.

TSATBBT is one of the most beautifully-written novels I have ever read. The novel is intermittently dispersed with beautiful poetry relating to each astrological sign, and these poems are so captivating. Then, Audre and Mabel's chapters are written so authentically. I loved that they were written in AAVE because it just felt so authentic and grounded.

I also feel like this is a novel about love. Yes, it is about romantic love, but it is also about familial love and platonic love and it is just about love.

This novel is about community, and it is about love, and it is about living life to the fullest.

This novel is exquisite and I absolutely loved it with my whole entire heart.
June 27, 2020
So sorry, but this book was not for me. I liked parts of it, such as how it tied into astrology, and I thought that was well done and creative.

The writing was beautiful at times but overall I very much struggled with the broken english and slang; sometimes I had no idea what was being said. If the story was told in 3rd person instead of 1st I probably would have liked it much, much more. The characters were plain and didn't feel like real people with emotions. The pacing was, well, not good. I kept waiting for something HUGE, passionate, and astronomical to happen so I can connect with the characters but that never happened. It seemed very anticlimactic.

I can understand how and why other readers would love this book, and this is just my opinion of it. If you loved it, that's great and I'm so glad you enjoyed it!
Profile Image for :).
137 reviews172 followers
February 22, 2021
omg those last two pages-
Profile Image for Heidi.
513 reviews25 followers
June 16, 2020
I feel only astonishment and awe after finishing this book. With its quiet beauty, this book settled underneath my skin and reminded me of the power of love and the limitlessness of human potential. I do not understand why this book has less than 300 reviews, because it is gorgeous and more people need to read it.

Young Audre's life is uprooted when her mother discovers her with the pastor's granddaughter. She is sent from her home country, Trinidad, to live with her father in Minneapolis. She meets another young girl, Mabel, who is struggling with questions about her own sexuality and a mysterious illness that leaves her feeling weak and unsure of herself. As these two characters fall in love, they learn what it means to heal, how to be human, how to cope with tragedy, and embrace who they are despite a world that tries to get them to fit in and stay in their boxes.

Junauda Petrus crafted an incredible love letter to Blackness and Black queer identity. Since I am neither Black nor queer, I cannot speak to the representation, but to me, it was an intensely emotional reading experience that placed me into the heads of these two characters as they sought to love and heal and become who they are. It's all about subverting the expectations placed on them by society. It's about learning how to embrace the limitlessness of their potential and finding freedom even in the midst of tragedy. The themes of embracing and celebrating who you are, of transcending that which leaves you pinned down, were so deftly handled and well executed. In addition, I loved the way it talked about holding onto one's culture, of remembering where you've come from while also learning how to carve out a life right where you are. Every one of the themes worked for me on so many levels.

I am not normally a fan of sickness narratives, but I felt like it did not take the focus of the plot. Neither did the love story between Audre and Mabel. This novel is as much about the love Audre has for her family back in Trinidad (especially her grandmother, Queenie) as it is about romance. The relationships between family in this novel were so beautiful. While I wished that we could've gotten to see more of Audre's relationship with her father, there was one moment between them toward the end of the novel that made me cry. I also loved seeing Mabel interact with her family. We got to explore the many different aspects of unconditional love, whether that's romantic, familial or cultural. It captivated me.

I was also intrigued by the discussion of spirituality in this book. Each section of the novel began with a poem inspired by the signs of the Zodiac. In some ways, those poems went over my head because I have not done enough research on the Zodiac, but I thought that it was very well-done. The running themes of space and stars and constellations contributed to the feelings of transcendence throughout the novel. Give me a good space theme, and I'm yours, honestly. There was also just the right hint of magical realism, especially in the ending. The first time I read the ending, I did not understand it, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

I am so glad I picked up this novel, and I hope that Junauda Petrus writes more in the future. It is going to stick with me!
Profile Image for Hsinju Chen.
Author 2 books199 followers
February 28, 2021
We was a cosmic conversation, before I even met you in this life.

I cannot write a review that does this book justice, so I am only going to share my scattered thoughts. For an actual review of this story, I encourage you to check out lauraღ’s, who is Trini.

The things that stood out the most to me were the prose, which reflected the slangs and dialects spoken by Trinis and Black Americans, and the imageries. Oh how I love beautiful written languages and rich thematic choices. The Stars and the Blackness Between Them dealt with the heavy and very real topics of terminal illness and wrongful incarceration. Despite knowing that this book is somewhat magical realism, nothing had prepared me for the ending, which I deeply adore. I love how we got to see hope and freedom through Audre’s point of view and how wonderfully constructed it was so that it is open for all interpretations, magical or otherwise.

Throughout reading, I never expected all the little scenes, the reminiscing, to make me have all the feels. Some romance books don’t even achieve that in 200+ pages, and Petrus did it in one page, multiple times. Most of the characters are so amazing I feel my heart melt just for the pureness and innate joy of them all: Audre (~16), Neri, Mabel (16), Queenie, Audre’s father, Mabel’s entire family, Jazzy, and Ursa. I was surprised that there is a third main character, Afua (~50), a man on the death row who was sentenced for a crime he did not commit: killing his best friend. I love Afua as much as I did Audre and Mabel; I love the parallel of death sentences—one of injustice and the other medical (also unfair).

Take your feelings and hold them with softness, but also with power.

There are many moments of WOCs supporting WOCs in TSATBBT and I will never not feel pure joy and empowerment whenever I read about them. The main imageries of water (ocean, sea, lake, rain) and horticulture (flowers, garden, caterpillars, butterflies) made the chapters (astrological seasons) and scenes in the book incredibly interconnected. I adore fictional writing with deeply rooted imageries so this was fully up my alley. As another islander, I feel emotionally connected with the ocean as Audre did, and I, too, love standing in the rain, simply because it feels free and weirdly private, like Mabel did once.

TSATBBTM reads like the murmur of the waves, the ever-glowing moon, and the blossoms of the prettiest flowers. It is a story about life, history, and hope.

Buddy read with Gabriella!

Content warnings: terminal illness, homophobia, outing, incarceration, death, misogyny, misgendering (unintentional), mention of familial death, police brutality, bullying, depression
Profile Image for lauraღ.
1,488 reviews65 followers
February 21, 2021
“As small as it is, this little life is mine, and I love it.”

I loved this book so much but I'm also slightly angry at it. I wasn't prepared to feel so much and feel so deeply. It also dealt with terminal illness, which is a topic I wasn't prepared for (guess who never read the blurb lol ✌️🏿) and I'm a little sensitive about. But throughout the sadness there was so much light and hope and joy in this, and it was told in the perfect way for me.

embedded under every new civilisation is an earth that never forgets

I don't have much of a review in me because I feel so drained, but let me try. I love, of course, the way it was told. Two different types of slang from two different girls, in prose and dialogue, and it was lyrical and gorgeous and frank and everything I wanted. I love how the use of language can ground and place a novel, and even though this was head-hurtingly beautiful, it never stopped being relatable. Having a Trini protag was so wonderful, and the amount of times our accent is referred to as beautiful did my body good. The writing was lovely, and the themes took me places I just didn't expect to go. I went in expecting queer girls falling in love, and I got that, but I also got anti-racist and social justice narratives, de-carceration, afro-futuristic elements and some magical realism. Afua's story knocked me on my ass. I loved the girls' relationships with their parents, and a couple conversations drove me to tears. Their relationship with each was perfect. We were shown everything we needed to see and nothing more. It was precise, but expressive in all the important ways. I've been told so many times that I would love this book and god, everyone was right. Every little element of being seen was gorgeous and affirming.

I had my nitpicks, most of which boil down to tiny inaccuracies that a native Trini would pick up on and a diaspora writer perhaps wouldn't. They're minor and I won't get into them, but I was jarred a couple times. (Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of it boils down to someone editing it to make it more understandable for wider audiences, which I have mixed feelings about.) I was, as always, apathetic about astrology things. And even though Audre's name comes from Audre Lorde, I was SO SAD we didn't get at least one reference to Kitch and Sugar Bum-Bum. Auuuudreeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

I want to turn this over in my head a bit more, because it deserves it. I also just want to cradle this book to my chest a little, because I'll never read another like it.

“Healing is like falling in love, but deeper. You unite with someone so that you can work alchemy with they soul.”
815 reviews89 followers
January 20, 2020

I am actually emotional right now. Okay. #RepresentationMatters. I have never read a book I fully related to in my life. Okay. The way Audre and Mabel talk about life, love, astrology, spirituality, Blackness, afrofuturism, weirdness, each other, god, the ancestors, music, Whitney Houston. so many things. I've never read a book about weird Black girls. Never read a book about weird, queer Black girls. This is the book I needed as a weird, questioning child. This is the book I needed as a weird young adult. I don't think I've ever loved a book the way I love this one. Everything is gay and nothing hurts. I don't think I'm allowed to curse on this site but F**********************ck this was too good. I am emotional. I am actually emotionally. I like how everything tied together somehow and things got wrapped up. Afua, Queenie, Neri. Everyone. I like Audre's development with her dad and even though the story is sad, it's so beautiful. So very, very beautiful. I will get a physical copy of this book and carry it everywhere I go.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,769 reviews650 followers
May 17, 2020
This was such a unique reading experience. And such a beautifully written book.

This is one of those books that wasn't written for me as a white reader, and that I couldn't be happier exists. I really loved this book, and I think it will mean a lot to own voices readers.

Rep: all Black cast, f/f romance, LGBTQ+ side characters, Muslim side character

CWs: religious and internalized homophobia, physical abuse, terminal illness, incarceration
Profile Image for Vicky Again.
596 reviews815 followers
July 25, 2020
This was so poetic and meaningful. I feel like I could read it five more times and still not catch every subtlety and nuance. The ending was absolutely beautiful. Highly recommend.

If you're into The Fault In Our Stars but aren't trying to pick this up, you need to remedy that. (Don't expect the same thing, but it shares a lot of themes and expands on them beautifully.)

Content Warnings:
Profile Image for Laura.
619 reviews25 followers
July 30, 2020
Wow. This one is really special. It’s dreamy and layered and spiritual and sweet and sad. It’s about freedom and blackness and love. Reading it while I was sick was really comforting and wonderful — at times almost too sad to get through, but other times so uplifting.

The love story (stories, really) are all so sweet and full and feel real but also magical. I love the hyper-specific and real way every character talks and moves and dresses. And the family and friend relationships are also complex and gorgeous.
Profile Image for Tomes And Textiles.
248 reviews408 followers
January 9, 2020
Find the full review on Tomes and Textiles.

“If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched your into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” Audre Lord
What if I told you nothing else about a book except: read it. Would you pick it up? Would you at least put it on your radar for me? Read the synopsis in my first comment?
What if I then told you the writing had the poetic lyricism of Elizabeth Acevedo and Jandy Nelson? The writing is baptized by queens Toni Morrison and Audre Lorde. Got your attention?
Finally, what if I told you that this sapphic love story brings together themes of Blackness, loving families, the industrial prison complex, trans-generational trauma of slavery, island mysticism and I haven’t even gotten to the synopsis of the action of the story? Are you ready?
I’m not sure what else to say except that you need The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by @junaudapetrus in your life.
This book so everything. A supernova. You don’t want to miss it.

More pictures, reviews and generally shouting about books on Find the full review on
Profile Image for Althea.
422 reviews143 followers
February 25, 2021
4.5/5 Stars

Wow this book made me cry! I was not expecting to be hit so hard! I don't know if I'll ever find the words to review this beautiful book but I absolutely adored it! I wish we had gotten to see the ending through Mabel's eyes too, but wow, read this book!!

Read for the Sapphic Stories Bookclub!
Profile Image for ONYX Pages.
50 reviews355 followers
July 18, 2019
Wooooow!! 4.5

What a glorious, melanated, magical love story!

Bravo! Brrraps! Biggup!
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