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The Only Black Girls in Town

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Award-winning YA author Brandy Colbert's debut middle-grade novel about the only two black girls in town who discover a collection of hidden journals revealing shocking secrets of the past.

Beach-loving surfer Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years. Alberta's best friend, Laramie, is the closest thing she has to a sister, but there are some things even Laramie can't understand. When the bed and breakfast across the street finds new owners, Alberta is ecstatic to learn the family is black-and they have a 12-year-old daughter just like her.

Alberta is positive she and the new girl, Edie, will be fast friends. But while Alberta loves being a California girl, Edie misses her native Brooklyn and finds it hard to adapt to small-town living.

When the girls discover a box of old journals in Edie's attic, they team up to figure out exactly who's behind them and why they got left behind. Soon they discover shocking and painful secrets of the past and learn that nothing is quite what it seems.

368 pages, Kindle Edition

First published March 10, 2020

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About the author

Brandy Colbert

23 books1,084 followers
Brandy Colbert was born and raised in the Missouri Ozarks. She lives and writes in Los Angeles.

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5 stars
1,169 (37%)
4 stars
1,526 (48%)
3 stars
368 (11%)
2 stars
41 (1%)
1 star
15 (<1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 588 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea (chelseadolling reads).
1,474 reviews19.2k followers
June 16, 2020
This book was fantastic. It was my 4th Brandy Colbert book and I think I can now officially declare her a favorite author bc I enjoy every book by her honestly a little more than the last and this one was no exception. I honestly love her her ability to weave so! many! complex things into a single story and this was just SO GOOD. If you haven't read a book by her yet, you absolutely need to.
Profile Image for nat.
70 reviews272 followers
April 12, 2021
- This book follows Alberta, a 12 year old black girl from California. She's such a nice character to read about, and also really good at surfing which is a prominent aspect of this book I loved.

- The plot of this book is based on Alberta meeting the new girl in her town, Edie, who is also the only black kid her age where they live — most people are white. Alberta's and Edie's friendship is so heartwarming and relatable and I was continually rooting for both of them.

- If you read this book, you'll probably end up adoring all the characters (read: N O T Nicolette.) Brandy Colbert is soo good at character development and I found myself even loving the side characters.

- The way this book handles racism is just *chef's kiss*. It's not blatant, which will be great for young black children reading this book, but as this book has a setting where most people are Clueless Whites™, there are a couple of racist microaggressions that are wonderfully tackled!

- Alberta also has two gay dads, and there's no homophobia at all. We love to see it.

- This book is sooo fun to read, and if I hadn't paced myself while reading it, it definitely wouldn't have been hard for me to finish it in a single sitting. All plot points are paced wonderfully (though I do wish the journal entries had more closure at the end) and I loved them equally!

Overall, I think this is such an amazing and enjoyable book black girls will love, and it's one I think should be in everyone's hands. It was a pleasant surprise for me as well! I might not even have requested this book if I didn't know it was middle grade, but thankfully I didn't realize and ended up loving this book. (I cannot believe the publisher had the gall to decline me for Brandy Colbert's upcoming YA release this year!!)

representation: Black main character, gay Black couple
content warnings: racism, parental separation
Profile Image for Bookishrealm.
1,839 reviews4,676 followers
October 18, 2020
The Only Black Girls in Town is a middle grade story told from the perspective of Alberta who resides in a beach town in California. She's used to being the only Black girl, but wishes for a Black companion that understands certain aspects of her life that her friends would not be able to understand. Alberta gets her wish when Edie moves into the B&B by her house. Edie is definitely not what Alberta expects. She wears a lot of black clothes and black lipstick and is from Brooklyn, NY. Despite their differences the girls bond when they find a set of old journals and they set out to learn more about the writer.

So I've seen this book in a few different places, but I never go the chance to pick it up. I was finally able to get an audio version from the library and it was definitely worth the wait. The Only Black Girls in Town not only focuses on the relationship between Alberta and Edie as friends, but also topics like colorism and white passing. The two girls are so strikingly different, but that's exactly why they work so well together. They served as support systems to each other when they are both forced to navigate White spaces.

I really enjoyed the historical elements and because this is a middle grade novel there wasn't much detail depicted in terms of consequences for white passing. There was also great representation. Alberta has two dads and actually has a relationship with her birth month. While this relationship isn't necessarily at the forefront of the novel, I thought that it was a great addition to the work as a whole. Colbert also places an emphasis on the importance of exposing children to different cultures, experiences, races, religions, etc. One character (I won't mention because of spoilers) exhibits such a high level of intolerance. It clearly is related to the their lack of exposure to individuals who aren't exactly the same as them. Overall, this book was excellent. I enjoyed Colbert's writing and her ability to incorporate pieces and parts from the past. I am definitely excited to pick up more books by this author.
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 6 books1,205 followers
March 4, 2020
It should be no surprise Colbert's middle grade debut is FABULOUS.
Profile Image for CW ✨.
631 reviews1,689 followers
April 5, 2021
I'm convinced that Brandy Colbert can write anything and it'd be amazing. The Voting Booth was one of my favourite YA reads last year, and now Brandy demonstrates that she's an incredible writer with her MG debut, The Only Black Girls in Town. I loved this.

- Follows Alberta, a Black girl who loves to surf and lives with her two dads in a small coastal town. When another Black girl and her mother move into town, Alberta is excited that she'll finally have a friend who might understand her.
- As well as a friendship story where the characters have to navigate change, toxic friendships, and misunderstandings, there's also this wonderful subplot where the girls find a collection of journals, filled with secrets that also delve into history and race of the time.
- I think this book does a wonderful job of exploring and portraying racism and its different forms, and how racism of today is very different of the past (as they learn through the journals).
- It's also a story about how people place expectations on Black girls and try and fit them into stereotypes. I loved how both girls show that being Black can mean so many things and that the girls were given room to be who they were, unapologetically.
- This is just such a wonderful middle-grade; the perfect 'slice of life' story that explores some great themes as well.

Trigger/content warning: instances of racism and microaggression (challenged), parental divorce
Profile Image for Camryn.
Author 4 books781 followers
January 6, 2020
I loved this! And also wish it had been around when I was in middle school.
Profile Image for Nev.
1,025 reviews132 followers
June 24, 2020
4.5 - This was such a lovely Middle Grade story about two young Black girls living in a predominately white town and how that impacts them. Through Alberta and Edie the readers get to see the microaggressions that they face from their peers and also teachers. The story covers friendship, family, modern day prejudices, and learning about the history of racism in the US.

There were so many wonderful things about this book. I appreciated that it was casually queer as Alberta has two dads. And Alberta and Edie were both fully fleshed out, unique characters. I also love how Brandy Colbert incorporated some complex topics, especially when it gets to the history that Alberta and Edie uncover through reading a box of old journals.

I think this is a book that people who aren’t typically Middle Grade readers could totally enjoy.
Profile Image for Kate Olson.
2,130 reviews724 followers
January 23, 2021
Such a unique and touching story about fitting in, middle school, family and friendship with a strong focus on being Black in America both from a present day and historical perspective.

Main characters are in 7th grade but totally fine for elementary as well. Some brief mentions of crushes but not a strong focus on dating or romantic relationships.
Profile Image for Vanessa S..
333 reviews79 followers
September 2, 2020
Alberta has been the only Black girl in her beach town for years, so she is thrilled to learn that a Black family with a 12-year-old daughter, Edie, is moving into the bed and breakfast across the street from her. In the midst of navigating their budding friendship, Alberta and Edie discover some old journals in the attic of the bed and breakfast and set out on a journey to uncover the journals’ history and origin.

What I Liked:
* Alberta is Black and has two Black dads who had her through surrogacy... diversity!!!
* Addresses the fact that not all racism is overt but that it still exists and affects one just the same
* Realistic look into navigating friendships in middle school (i.e., drama with “the mean girl,” crushes, etc.)
* Ice cream is mentioned and consumed several times, of which I approve🍦

What I Didn’t Quite Like:
* Not really a criticism, but I wanted to see more surfing in the book (Alberta is a surfer, and it’s part of her identity, so I wanted to see it play an even larger role)

Recommended If: I really enjoyed this book! It’s a great middle grade book that tackles some heavy topics. I love that it included LGBTQ characters, mystery, middle school drama, and strong friendships. I feel like this book is slept on and highly recommend it for you or those middle schoolers in your life.
Profile Image for Mid-Continent Public Library.
581 reviews174 followers
November 19, 2021
Alberta has been the only black girl in town for years until the bed and breakfast across the street gets new owners that turn out to have a 12-year-old daughter who is black just like her. Enjoy this one now by checking out a copy on Mymcpl.org or searching for it on Overdrive! - Reviewed by Stephanie at MCPL Reading Rocket
Profile Image for Shaye Miller.
1,236 reviews81 followers
April 6, 2020
I absolutely loved this debut middle-grade novel about Alberta and Edie -- the only black girls in town. Edie is new to town after her mother purchased a bed and breakfast. When Edie decides to make her bedroom in the attic of her new home, she and Alberta find a whole pile of journals left behind by someone who passed years ago. Simultaneously, they are experiencing racism in their community and coming to terms with who they can count on. This was such a pleasant surprise! I would classify it as a historical fiction novel because of the focus on black history, including specific mentions of Rosa Parks, Emmett Till, etc. It also had a Parker Inheritance feel because of the dual stories occurring between the past and the present. Highly recommend for the upper middle grade reader in your life!

For more children's literature, middle grade literature, and YA literature reviews, feel free to visit my personal blog at The Miller Memo!
Profile Image for Enne.
718 reviews113 followers
March 31, 2021
4 stars

Middle-grade books about kids uncovering local histories and mysteries!!! More of them pls!! Okay but seriously, I have read some Brandy Colbert stuff before, but this one is definitely my favorite work of hers so far. The characters and friendships in this are just!! Next level!! And I love the historical mystery aspect of it and the hidden journals ahhhh!! The entire thing was just so much fun to follow?? And I like how at its heart this is a book about family and friendship and community and it made me feel so warm and fuzzy whenever I was reading it and I just!! Cannot recommend it enough!!

trigger warnings: racist comments and microagressions, bullying
rep: Black MC and SCs, gay SCs, Latinx SCs

what is the best sub-category of middle grade and why is it "kids discover old diary in a dusty attic and go on a journey of self-discovery as they attempt to uncover the life story of the person who wrote it"
Profile Image for Kim M.
213 reviews1,377 followers
June 13, 2020
This book deserves more ratings.

I don't read a lot of middle grade, and I wouldn't have checked this book out if I had known that's what it was. But I'm glad I did. This is a gentle realistic contemporary about friendship, family history, and self identity. It also deals with race and microaggressions in such a way that will be very subtly eye-opening to young white readers. The characters are all endearing and fun and the book is never boring. Would recommend this book for all middle grade readers, regardless of race or gender.
August 6, 2020
I have SO MUCH TO say about this awesome book and I don't know exactly where to begin. I had to re-read this again - SLOWLY - because I wanted to savor every moment of a book that I couldn't stop loving.

Firstly though, a book about Black girls who surf and who dress goth. How could I NOT like this? This is one of those books I wish existed when I was younger. Even now it's like I feel SEEN! And that's important. There's a reason why the hashtag #representationmatters exists. Alberta and Edie are the Black girls I was and the Black girls I would have loved to have been friends with. They are the Black girls who EXIST now yet too many ignore or adultify to the detriment of Black girls.

I'm going out on a limb and guess that author Brandy Colbert set Ewing Beach in Cambria, CA (Moonstone Beach, my favorite place). If it had been Morro Bay, she'd have mentioned "the rock".

There was so much to love about this book - girl friendships, gay parenting treated as boringly normal, surfer girls, smart girls, goth girls, a mystery, emotional and physical growing pains - in short, a slice of life that isn't centered around Black pain and struggle.

Wow, who'da thunk it, lol.

Alberta is your typical carefree Black girl (what, you didn't know we existed? Shame on you, lol) who loves surfing and butter pecan ice cream. She and her dads live in a small California beach town where there aren't a lot of Black people. They're vegetarians too. Hence the title (I'll have some thoughts on this). She's going through some big changes - like going into seventh grade, spending time with her birth mother, and best friend Laramie seems to be growing up faster and leaving her behind. And while her surfing buddy Oliver is Latino, Alberta is one of the few Black kids in town and the only one her age. Of course, her across the street nemesis Nicolette McKee's (aka future Karen) constant microaggressions sometimes has Alberta wondering if she's being hypersensitive. As cool as Laramie is, she doesn't think Nicolette's behavior is that big of a deal.

Enter Edie (yes, named after famed Youth Quaker Edie Sedgwick). She and her mother moved into the bed and breakfast across the street. Edie wears all black, including lipstick, and loves Victorian literature. Being from New York, it takes a little time for her to adjust to life in a small town - even one as quaint as Ewing Beach. However, Alberta and Edie instantly gravitate towards each other, both being the same age and both having non-traditional families (Edie's mother is divorced). They also find themselves solving a mystery surrounding a woman named Constance, whose journals Edie finds in her attic bedroom.

Having often been the only Black person in predominantly non-Black spaces, I could relate to Alberta feeling both invisible yet also visible. It's especially hard when there's at least one racist idiot who needs to show their asses. And sometimes even a close friend may not always catch the snide racial asides, say they're not that big of a deal, or act as if it was a joke. I actually hate the term "microagression" because there's nothing small about purposeful ignorance wielded as a weapon. What makes this worse is the endless self gaslighting that happens, and the choices are either to not make a scene (which then becomes another stereotype) or to speak out then have people blame you for blowing it all out of proportion.

This has become one of my new comfort books. Alberta and Edie are not characters, but friends. I want more books about alt Black girls just being themselves, making friends and growing up. Let them have fun and fall in love.
Profile Image for Sophie.
Author 28 books406 followers
September 13, 2021
This was a really lovely book. I breezed through it as it felt so smooth to read. The characters all felt warmly represented. I enjoyed the sprinkling of historical mystery on top of a contemporary story.

Side note - I loved that the MC has been vegetarian her whole life, like me!
Profile Image for Stacy.
55 reviews4 followers
August 17, 2020
Okay I loved this one, and I really didn't think I would. But what a pleasure it was to read a MG book where the voice felt genuinely middle grade, and where it touched upon delicate issues in an age appropriate way. This was also a book that did a great job of talking about race, of talking about Black people, in a way that didn't feel steeped in trauma. Alberta was met with challenges as one of the only Black girls in town, but she was also met with the challenges of being a middle schooler and all the drama that entails (gosh, I don't miss middle school). I don't think I've read anything else by Brandy Colbert, but I'm certainly going to make it a point to moving forward!
Profile Image for TheNextGenLibrarian.
1,652 reviews
May 23, 2020
It’s not often I read a middle grade novel that has it all, but I can definitively say that this one did. Alberta struggles with puberty, growing up, bullying, race, family and friend changes, following her passion and so much more in this coming-of-age novel that also includes historical fiction elements, a mystery and just a great middle grade novel in general. I’ll be recommending this one a lot in the fall.
Profile Image for Bella.
467 reviews15 followers
June 25, 2020
4.5 stars. I am not exaggerating when I say that Brandy Colbert writes some of the best literature I know for children and young adults. What a wonderful read, touching on shifting friendships, growing up, and what it means to be Black in a predominantly white town -- all with a hint of mystery too! I so enjoyed it.
Profile Image for Kristen.
178 reviews8 followers
June 29, 2020
If this had been a YA, I'm sure it would be 5* for me but being middle grade fiction... it fell short in a few areas namely the end bit with Nicolette... However, I really enjoyed this.

The mystery aspect was captivating. Plus, both Edie and Alberta were great kids. The representation is this book is amazing, as Alberta is a surrogate baby to two gay men.

It all felt very realistic to a middle school experience and I hope a lot of younger kids read this. Standing up to bullying and understanding how pervasive racism is can be taught at any age.

This is a really good review of the book if you want to learn more:
Profile Image for Laura.
598 reviews24 followers
March 21, 2022
4.5 stars

This is a sweet (and bittersweet), kind of quiet story of friendship, identity, race, and family. There is a mystery element, but it’s not really a mystery. I also like the variety of family set-ups it portrays, without being necessarily about that.

I think this will be meaningful to black kids dealing with being the only ones, and also I hope that white or non-black kids will read this and have a little more empathy/understanding for the experience of some of their classmates/neighbors.
Profile Image for Kelly Hager.
3,097 reviews129 followers
March 14, 2020
I absolutely loved this book! The synopsis is a little misleading, because it definitely deals more with Alberta and her relationships (with her dads and with her two good friends, Edie and Laramie). The journals are definitely important, but it's not the most vital piece of the story. (Also, I was pretty sure I knew what the "shocking and painful" secret was, and I'm really happy I was wrong. It never would've occurred to me. I would still call it a painful secret.)

I think a lot of people could relate to Alberta. She's in middle school (seventh grade) and it feels like all of a sudden, her friends are just...older than she is. Their priorities are different and they act differently, and it's disconcerting for her in a lot of ways. Middle school is the worst, anyway, and it's even harder when your best friend has started ditching you for the popular girl who's awful to you all the time. (REALLY, LARAMIE? #TeamAlberta)

This is just a really good and fun read. It's exactly what we need right now. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Lorie Barber.
557 reviews36 followers
June 24, 2020
Listened to the one on audio, as I’m trying to gather inclusive audio books for my kids.

I 100% loved THE ONLY BLACK GIRLS IN TOWN with my whole heart. Alberta & Edie, Laramie & Oliver are wonderful characters. Alberta is beautifully introspective, and Edie’s buoyant personality is a great complement.

The secondary plot of Constance, how the mystery unravels and brings the two girls closer together while teaching the reader about the sacrifices - sometimes even the sacrifice of self - Black people had to (and still do) make in the 1950s. I was riveted as the book took me back in time through Constance’s journals, then back to present day, where kid-centered topics like divorce, racism, and all different kinds of family dynamics were at play.

I have so many books that I want to read aloud to my students next year. This one is now one of
The top contenders and a definite add to my library.
Profile Image for Anniek.
1,708 reviews625 followers
August 7, 2020
This is a really special book, and I have no idea how to properly review it. I think this will be a very important read for young Black readers, because it deals with race in so many different ways and in such a layered way. It deals with Black history, it deals with growing up Black in a predominantly white small town, it deals with microaggressions and how there are many different ways to be Black. And that's not even all of it.

It's honestly amazing to see how many themes this book dealt with without it ever feeling too much. This was my third Brandy Colbert book and she's for sure one of my favourite authors now. I really loved Alberta as a main character, and I found this a very wholesome read.
Profile Image for Shari (Shira).
2,082 reviews
February 2, 2020
All kinds of families. The main character, Alberta, an African American 7th grader is the daughter of two dads. Her neighbor and new friend, Edie, is living in a newly broken family. In addition to the focus on family, including a surprising family secret, this book accurately captures seventh grade issues: mean girls, the overwhelming desire to be popular, and first crushes.
Profile Image for Jeanie Phillips.
454 reviews7 followers
March 9, 2020
Listened to this advanced listening copy on libro.fm and loved it! On one level this is a story about middle school friendships. On another, it is about a family navigating mostly white spaces. And there is a third story, a mystery that our main character Alberta and her new friend Edie slowly unravel. It is this third story that really kept me hooked!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 588 reviews

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