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Black Girl Unlimited

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A powerful YA debut novel based on the author’s teen struggle with racism, poverty, and depression.

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and parents suffer addictions to the white rocks. Yet there is magic . . . everywhere. New portals begin to open when Echo transfers to the rich school on the West Side, and an insightful teacher becomes a pivotal mentor. Each day, Echo travels between two worlds, leaving her brothers, her friends, and a piece of herself behind on the East Side. There are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you. Echo soon realizes there is pain flowing through everyone around her, and a black veil of depression threatens to undo everything she’s worked for.

Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited is a transcendent coming-of-age. For fans of Piecing Me Together by Renee Watson and American Street by Ibi Zoboi.

304 pages, Hardcover

First published January 14, 2020

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About the author

Echo Brown

11 books262 followers
Echo Brown is a visionary storyteller who creates and performs inspiring one woman shows. Her first solo show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, ran for two years to sold out crowds in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Chicago, Cleveland, Berlin, Germany, and Dublin, Ireland.

She has just finished her first book entitled, Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard, which will be published through Macmillan Publishing House in January 2020.

Echo regularly teaches workshops and gives talks at places like Facebook, Google, & Dropbox. She has also given 2 Tedx talks.

Echo is currently based in Paris, France and is represented by Heather Karpas (literary works), Ross Weiner (theater works), and Lia Chan (film & tv rights) at ICM

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5 stars
2,088 (52%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 1,087 reviews
Profile Image for Whitney Atkinson.
916 reviews13.9k followers
July 11, 2020
uhhhh who else here is crying?? this book had me weeping.

i loved every page of it. from the metaphors to each chapter focusing on a different life lesson to echo's writing, this book was raw and meaningful. if i had read it as a teenager i think it would've gone so far over my head, which just shows that teens nowadays are so smart and more understanding and receptive to books like this. i highly, highly, highly recommend this.
Profile Image for Bang Bang Books.
491 reviews212 followers
June 4, 2020

UGH, I hate giving own voices books like this low ratings but Brown's editor needed to step up-GEEZ!

Issues I had with This Book
*This Book is in BAD need of an Editor-I appreciated what Brown was trying to do here but it muddied this otherwise important book. Brown tried to incorporate magical realism but it just didn't work because it wasn't believable. At no time was I ever able to suspend belief that this girl was a wizard. It was also a distraction and it didn't add anything to the story. As a matter of fact, it took away from the important topic that doesn't appear in YA fiction often enough.

To give you an example of books that did this better: More Happy Than Not; Bone Gap; and anything my Anna-Marie McLemore. When you read a McLemore book you are like, "Sure, girls can totally sprout vines from their wrists." But I never bought for a minute that Echo was a wizard.

* That Thing Black Authors Do-Black authors tend to want to put so much stuff about being Black in America that it feels thrown in and underdeveloped. Brown wanted to talk about poverty and sexual abuse and drug abuse and sexual assault which should have been the focus. But then she throws in random stuff like playing Spades and religion and colorism and all though these are all relevant issues in the Black community, they didn't add to the story-focus on a couple of themes and save that other stuff for future books.

* OMG Focus, Girl-This book was all over the place. The best friend has some sort of powers and the other friend was a Black Panther but I don't think Black Panthers were still a thing in the 90's and she had a Muslim friend who wore a hijab who would pop in and out at convenient times and the Muslim girl's mom went on-and-on about the hardship of living in Iran and Echo tries to rent a house in the suburbs but it wasn't really mentioned again and there's a black veil hanging over people and there's a teacher with a Black husband that she constantly complained about and then there's random LGBTQ+ characters that didn't contribute anything to the story and then they went to see Titanic and she almost drowned when she was six. If this is making you dizzy, then imagine how I felt.

* I'm So Confused-Brown did this thing where she would jump back and forth between two different events happening in the same chapter and the events were separated by double spacing. I wasn't confused about what was happening and I actually thought it was a cool technique but my problem was that I wasn't sure what the connection was. There's a scene in season one, episode three of The Witcher where Geralt is fighting the striga and the scene switches to Yennifer's transformation and it's clear that the theme between the events is rebirth. This is what's happening in Unlimited but I didn't know what the themes were.

* I read some other reviews that complained about the time jumps. I totally understand what they are saying and although I wasn't confused by it; I could see a teen getting confused.

What I Liked About the Book:
* This book is very honest about poverty and sexual assault of minors in poor neighborhoods. It was very tough to read at times but I appreciated Brown writing it. I just wish it could have been the focus and not the magical realism and this is what I meant by having a better editor.

* Brown is a debut and she has HUGE potential to tell a compelling story. You can tell from her writing that she has lots of ideas about themes and writing style. There were moments of beautiful metaphorical writing and poetry and imagery.

* I mentioned book Echo's Black Panther friend above. This character was interesting because he went on and on about the plight of the Black man and Echo tried to tell him the plight of the Black woman and how the Black man affects that plight negatively. Brown didn't go into it enough but she did have something quite profound to say about it; i just wish there was more.

I do think readers will get something out of this book so I would recommend it if it is on your TBR just know that there are some serious issues with the execution.
Profile Image for Warda.
1,153 reviews18.4k followers
April 10, 2023
There’s no way I can review this book in the way that it deserves. It’s truly a journey.

A painful one, a hopeful one, one of confronting your childhood traumas and doing the necessary but miserable work in order to move on from it. Because burying it can only do so much for you.

Echo has buried several of them; the pain of not only being black in this world, but being a black woman, the pain of parents failing you, being emotionally and sexually abused, and being made to be a statistic.
But along the way our main character discovers her wizardry, her magic, her power, alongside people that truly support her.

The author did an incredible job at telling this story. I believe it’s autobiographical as well, which makes it that much more impactful.

I loved it.
Profile Image for Mari.
705 reviews5,062 followers
June 30, 2020

When I tell you that I SOBBED.

Why you may not like this book: This is part autobiographical with a strong element of fabulism, but it's fabulism in a very matter-of-fact way. I think a lot of times when people think of magical elements in contemporary stories, they expect a certain type of magic and writing-- flowery, atmospheric. I was thrown off myself a bit when the magic shows up here and it's just... bald. Most of it is metaphoric, though parts are just unexplained. If you come into this expecting something that's more fantasy or expecting the text to convince you this magic exists, I don't think you'll like it.

Additionally, this is heavy. Content warnings for rape, sexual assault, death of a parent, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, child abuse, poverty, and a hit and run. I say this so that you can prepare yourself if needed, but also to note that I've seen lots of people complaining in reviews that "it's a lot." (To clarify, not because of triggers, but in the sense that it's too much for one story.) Considering that it's inspired by true events, and it's, you know, the point of the book that black and brown folk have to deal with a lot, this complaint feels a little obtuse and privileged to me, but be warned: it's a lot. You may not like Black Girl Unlimited if you can't deal with that.

Why I loved this book: It took me a bit to settle into this because it read so differently than most of what I read. Brown shares this almost autobiographical story slightly removed from it, as a narrator from the future who knows what happens. Her use of magic feels literal and acts metaphorically. She interrupts her timeline and has these sections that tell of dueling events, interwoven. It feels disruptive, making it an incredibly effective tool to compare these big moments in Echo's life.

From about 50% of this book on, I was routinely crying. I was switching between an ebook and audiobook version (both from my library) and I ended with listening to Brown's voice fill with tears while reading her acknowledgments, ending by thanking her younger self for surviving. There is no explaining what that did to me, and how this story in general made me consider the dreams I've buried in order to survive, the word seeds planted in my life that I believed and let flourish.

The way this book spoke of pain, tragedy and recovery is not something I'll soon forget. It pours hope in the strength of black women, but doesn't romanticize it. Surviving is a bloodbath, as Brown says. It's a bloodbath. We shouldn't have to do it, but we do.

I know that I will hold this story in my thoughts for a long, long time and it's one I imagine I'll read again. It deserves to take up a lot of space, for being so beautifully composed and achingly real.
Profile Image for Amy Imogene Reads.
929 reviews800 followers
September 19, 2021
Riveting, heartbreaking, soul-mending, and ultimately a beacon of hope.

Writing: ★★★★★
Emotions: ★★★★★
Characters: ★★★★★

This is such a poignant read. Echo Brown deserves every standing ovation, every "oh my gosh you have to read this book" friendly push, and every accolade. This was a showstopper debut.

Part coming-of-age novel, part fabulism, part reflection on the state of being black in America, and part story of female resilience in the heart of abuse and oppression—it's impossible to distill this novel down to a review that means something. I feel almost like a fool for trying, but I want you to read this so bear with me.

Echo lives on the East Side of Cleveland in the 1990s. It's world away from the West Side, at the rich white people school that she's “allowed” to attend. Her situation is a parable for many other young black women in the city, but at the same time a stunningly personal journey through her own life in and separate from those around her.

You see, Echo is a wizard.

She's not the kind of wizard with the wand and the hat. Her magic doesn't appear as a spell or incantation. This kind of wizardry is special—and allegorical. Echo, her mother, her female friends, and a memorable female mentor are all wizards. Black women are wizards. For being able to survive the pain, the circumstance, and the reality and still maintain the inner light that is their voice? That's wizardry.

Black Girl Unlimited is a story about a girl, named Echo, who's learning the steps to be a wizard. The steps are steep, she'll often fall back on herself. But she'll get there, and you'll cheer her on at every step and cry at every hurdle.

"Hard-hitting contemporary" fits in this context, but don't let that stop you. This is the story of a wizard who learns how to channel her own light in a world of darkness.

It's beautiful.

Trigger warnings hidden under spoilers:

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Profile Image for Sofii♡ (A Book. A Thought.).
401 reviews429 followers
June 11, 2020

WOW, I didn't expect to end up so moved by this book, but it managed to get to my heart and not only that, I think it's that type of book that everyone should read because although it's not an easy read at all, it confronts you with reality in a very crude way, of what black community must face and go through in an ignorant and racist society. In addition to this, we follow a heartbreaking story, but in the same way, inspiring. It's perfectly combined with touches of magical realism and will leave you thinking, as will also leave you great teaching. I loved it, obviously, and I won't stop recommending it to everyone from now on.


5/5 ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

You can find more of my reviews & fun content on my blog A Book. A Thought.

In this book, we follow Echo Brown who's a wizard who lives on the East Side, where life situations are precarious and her parents are addicts, but she's still able to find magic everywhere. When new opportunities open up to her, Echo is transferred to a rich school on the West Side, where she meets a teacher who will soon become a great support and mentor. But, there are dangers to leaving behind the place that made you and soon Echo will begin to see the pain of all those around her, and the black veil of depression will appear as a threat to destroy everything she has achieved.

I think it's very difficult to describe this story and do it justice, it's certainly an impossible job that I will not even begin to try, but as I'll do always try to give all of me to transmit to you all that this book meant to me as I was reading it and its great and powerful message.

I want to start by mentioning that it's not a coincidence that the name of the main character is the same as the author's, but that this story is highly inspired by the author's own life, but with a magical realism touch. I can't even imagine how hard it would have been for the author to write this book, but I have great admiration for her for having done it and for having also been able to convey so strongly everything that the Echo of the book has had to go through. I don't know how much of this book is really the author's life, though, so I prefer to focus on the Echo of the book, because I wouldn't want to disrespect her person in any way.

In the plot, we follow Echo from the time she's just 3 or 4-year-old until she's 18 years old, and we accompany her seeing from her point of view all the stages and all the experiences, both good and painful, that she has had to go through during this period of time . It's heartbreaking, guys, I'll not lie to you this is a very hard book to read because it has a very graphic content of extremely difficult experiences that Echo must live either herself, as much as her loved ones, we witness from drug use and domestic violence, up to several cases of abuse and rape, among other things. This is something I can't help but mention because it could be hard content for sensitive readers, so be careful when reading it. Although it's not an easy experience, it has been a great pleasure to experience it, there was a time when I had to stop because it broke my heart, but then I continued and I realized how inspiring this story is, and how the final message it's really beautiful, it's about getting ahead despite adversities, it talks about family and the importance of love, and above all, about forgiving others and forgiving yourself for the mistakes of your live.

I felt super connected with Echo on the family side, thank god I've never experienced violence in my family or drogue use, but my family is made up in the same way with my mother, my stepfather and my two little brothers, so that felt very similar, besides that my brothers are my life and seeing how Echo cares about them, how much she loves them and wants the best for them, touched my heart.


That a book of only 300 pages has the power to reach your soul as this has done, is 100% merit of the incredible author's writing style, her style is super beautiful and poetic, but also has the power to leave you breathless with every word. It's so beautifully told it's insane, one of my favorite styles I've come across in a while. The book is also written in a very unique way that I hadn't seen until today, where in a single chapter we can jump between scenes from the past and present, but with a perfect connection and transition where the words are linked and has a lot of meaning. I found this kind of difficult to read at first, but then when I was moving through it, it began to make more sense and I end up liking it a lot.

I want to give it a separate paragraph to talk about the magical realism, that's the main protagonist of this story. Magic in general, even if it's put there as a compliment, I love it in my books, and this time it had a very big impact on the story. Echo is a wizard, but she also gets to know other wizards throughout her life, who touches her and support her in different ways. At one point, I thought that all these magical and surrealistic touches were metaphors for dark moments that the author described, but then I realized that it had greater meaning and it was actually real within the lives of the characters. There are beautiful moments, where Echo along with another wizard friend use their power to inspire and help their brothers to go the right path, we also see moments where Echo begins to see this black veil surrounding people or flying over them, which then you interpret it as depression and it appears more and more as bad, traumatic and sad things happen to them in their life, which seemed very clever to me. There's also a time when we travel to the in-between, which is this place where magical things happen and where some wizards go when something very bad happens to their bodies. It's very complex to explain, but basically it's a wonderful factor, which is very well used in addition to giving a poetic and beautiful touch to the plot, it gives a lot of depth and meaning to each scene. INCREDIBLE.

The characters are all awesome, I don't want to talk about each one of them this time, I'll only mention them briefly because they're a lot of characters and have SO particular and diverse personalities, it's fantastic, but also each one has a unique life story that greatly impacts on the plot and I wouldn't want to reveal too much, so here we go. First, we have my beloved Echo, who's a wonderful main character, is a super-strong girl who reborn from her ashes and dreams of helping others who have struggled for the same things as her. This character is SO inspiring, I love her, and despite having gone through unthinkable and cruel things, there's a sensitivity, innocence, and beautiful goodness in her that never disappears and in the end, it's still there, within her. Her brothers are Jerone (Rone) & Tendre (Dre) and they're very particular boys, I like how the author has given them different personalities and although they're both "rebellious" boys in some way, it shows that deep down they want to be better and have a full life, the relationship they have with Echo is EVERYTHING, one of my favorite things. Her mother April, is a person who's constantly fighting with herself, fighting for her children, but also with many problems from her drug issues, and traumatic events of her childhood that she'll have to face at some point. I think her story is very impressive and shows great growth and courage. Then we have Echo's friends and important people who have always been in her life like Jessie, a sweet and strong boy, Jin (Asian/queer) super epic, I love his personality, Davante, with a revolutionary spirit, Karen, Rodman, Alex, Tiffany & my personal favorite, Elena (Muslim/queer) who gives fresh air to the story with her amazing and brave personality. I can't fail to mention Mrs. Delaney, Echo's teacher, who reminded me a lot of Miss. Honey from Matilda, because she's such a noble and really good soul, I love her, she's that beacon of hope and unconditional support that Echo needed. There are many more characters, which have perhaps more negative impacts, so I don't feel like mentioning them here.

I adored the friendships that are created, as well as hope and salvation that comes from unexpected angels, I adored the positive romantic aspects, I love that also focuses on families and their diversity, I LOVE that talks about puberty, about the future, about what you want to do with your life, about so many things that will surely impact you in some way. But above all, it's a story of rebirth and fights against excesses. And of course, the topic of racism and white supremacy is discussed a lot, so it's a very delicate, but super important topic that we should all know and informs ourselves every day. Seeing Echo go through discrimination and degradation just because of the color of her skin or where she comes from, is SO painful, but it also opened my eyes a lot, it's necessary to have first-person knowledge to be able to start changing the world in which we live. It's also very interesting how it discusses the issue of macho violence even within the black community, I liked it, and the empowerment of the rights of women and especially black women. I want to clarify that I could never put myself in the place of what the black community has to live because nobody knows or understands it, only those who have had to live it every day, that's why I feel SO grateful with the author for putting all this on paper and giving us this story. It discusses hundreds of aspects to be such a short book, so I can say that it's an exceptional job.

The ending is beautiful, I cried like a baby because I felt so happy for Echo, she deserves every good thing in this world. The fact that the ending felt like the beginning was simply all I needed.


Obviously, I highly recommend it, I think everyone should read it, it's short, it will not take you long, but it will leave you a lot and I know you'll learn a lot from it too. It's an extremely powerful, touching, and heartbreaking book, but I repeat ... INSPIRING, meaningful, and emotional. I would really love you to read it and tell me your own opinion. I don't think I'm able to reflect the real meaning of the book because it's much more than what I could express in words. Do you know when you're wiser after reading a book? well that exactly. I LOVED IT! and I hope you do too.

First Thoughts 06/10/20

I'm not crying, you're crying. 😭
First 5 stars of the year and absolutely deserved. This is a brilliant work from start to finish, a story that made me feel SO many emotions, I identify with the main character in so many ways, but I also feel that I'm much wiser after reading this book. Echo's story is absolutely inspirational and I have no words to describe when I loved it ❤️✨
Profile Image for Fadwa (Word Wonders).
547 reviews3,543 followers
March 2, 2020
I received an ALC from the publisher through Libro FM in exchange of an honest review

CW: trauma, addiction, overdose, child sexual abuse, rape, dissociation, talk of suicide, suicidal ideations, racism, talk of unintentional murder, death

BLACK GIRL UNLIMITED is hands down the best book I've read this month and this year so far. It is such a brilliant book, such a visceral and painful read, a heartbreaking one that's ultimately hopeful. It made me smile and cry, I found myself sobbing by the end of it because of how much it made me feel. Echo Brown tells her life story from when she was a child up until she moved away to college, she doesn't gloss over any hardships, she delivers every single sentence with intent and doesn't only talk about her own struggles growing up Black and poor in the US but she also talks about her community, how everyone struggles with addiction to cope, how people need to do whatever they can do to escape their trauma living with a broken system that's designed for them to fail, how people lose themselves and give up on themselves.

But most of all she talks about Black women's struggles, how they don't just face trauma from white people but from Black men as well, how they're mistreated, abused and raped. How if you're not lucky to have the right support system, people by your side to hold you up and push you towards healing and succeeding, you won't make it. And how even with all the odds stacked against her, the author managed to get there. This book really hit me in all the right places.

There's so much trauma packed into it, so many awful things Echo Brown has had to deal with, but the way she delivers her story makes it magical and mezmerizing, so much so that I couldn't wait to get back to the audiobook when I had to stop reading, ESPECIALLY since it was narrated by her. She uses metaphors for trauma, calls herself and the women around her who survive trauma and help others do the same wizards, used a black veil to signify trauma, miracle imageries, etc... and that enhances the reading experience so much. I've never read a memoir written in such a way, that I think I will be coming back to this one and it will stay with me for a long time.
Profile Image for rachel, x.
1,718 reviews856 followers
November 16, 2021
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Profile Image for Steph.
543 reviews270 followers
May 7, 2021
this is an intense autobiographical novel about finding power and transformation amidst trauma. the narrative jumps through time, often allowing two scenes to unfold at once with alternating paragraphs. these time jumps are confusing, but also beautifully poetic, and they add to the magic theme. echo's world is absolutely brimming with magical realism.

echo's strength is extraordinary. i loved watching her find support and allyship in women around her; especially her friend elena, a fellow wizard. the two use magic to stop time and subtly influence their loved ones to build better futures. such earnestness, despite the cycles of abuse, poverty, addiction, and trauma that surround them.

on many levels, black girl unlimited is a beautiful book, but it feels very much like a debut. the writing is sometimes repetitious and clunky. and i'm not sure why everyone in echo's life speaks to her in monologues? perhaps a deliberate stylistic choice, but it's tiresome and feels very artificial.

some more intensive editing would have done this book a lot of good!! but so much of echo brown's heart is in these pages. after hearing her tearful dedication at the end of the audiobook, i have to give this book a solid four stars, and thank her for sharing her story!!
Profile Image for Korrie’s Korner.
1,067 reviews13.6k followers
August 22, 2022
What a powerful read!

This book was more than what you might think from just reading the blurb. It was truly an experience that will stay with me for a few. It deals with abuse, mental health and so much more. The word “wizard” used threw me off for a hot minute because I was like hey, wait. Is this a fantasy novel? I love when a story uses symbolism to describe meanings behind certain words. I’m not wanting to spoil so I’m trying to be cryptic. Lol. This book really shows what being black in America looks like for so many. We all experience different levels of things, being black...some people’s experiences are worse than others, and I appreciate the realness in which this story was written.
Profile Image for Brithanie Faith.
262 reviews164 followers
November 25, 2019
4/5 stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

ARC provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Black Girl Unlimited follows Echo Brown in this heavily autobiographical story about a young wizard from the East Side, where apartments are small and many suffer from addiction. Infused with magical realism, this novel covers topics such as poverty, sexual violence, mental illness, racism, and sexism.

So- I definitely needed a few days to gather my thoughts on this one! It was difficult for me to put a rating on a book that reflects on someone else's personal struggles growing up, but this was beautifully written and I think the author did a great job with her exploration of everything that she did cover.

If you're sensitive to any of the topics mentioned above- I would proceed with caution! While this was by no means a light read, it was one that was filled with hope and I can see it having a positive impact on a lot of people.
May 17, 2020
I am speechless. When I was at the library, I grabbed this book on a whim because it seemed interesting. I had no idea that this book was going to change the way I see life, the way I see myself as a black girl, or the way I thought overcoming darkness and adversity looked like. From feeling Echo's pain to feeling immensely empowered, I constantly felt something as I read Echo Brown's words. I now have adopted many of Echo's words into my life's philosophy; as a result, I feel encouraged to push myself and to spread love to others around me, no matter what. I hope you read this book and if you have, please take the time to ponder on the themes in this book; it's definitely worth your time.

• You'll never know what you are truly made of if you keep yourself hidden. The choice of whether you rise and meet your full potential is yours.

• If you can, you must.

-Echo Brown
March 3, 2020

I do not use that word lightly when reviewing books. Also, I do not give five stars all willy-nilly. One must earn them. Wow. This one earned both.

My heart and soul hurts and carries hope for Echo Brown and women like us profoundly affected by the world that continuously tries to beat us down while we rise.

Magical. For the wizards out there, you are magical. Simply put.

Profile Image for Oyinda.
661 reviews156 followers
September 15, 2020
Title: Black Girl Unlimited
Author: Echo Brown
Narrator: Echo Brown
Rating: 5
I really loved reading this book, even though there were so many difficult and hard-to-read topics touched on. The fact that this is the author’s autobiography makes it all the more amazing to me, because she has been through so much and was able to make it out and tell her story. I loved the added element of added magical realism, and how it was woven into the story.
I loved the characters in this book so so so much, well most of them. Few of them were kinda horrible and I couldn’t stand them, but I believe they were a necessary part of the author’s story. The chapters were written as lessons and they were from different parts of the author’s life. My takeaway from that is that she was able to, no matter how hard the situation was, learn a lesson from the good and bad things that happened to her. We can all emulate this – try to pick out at least one lesson out of things that happen to you, and apply those lessons to future life events.
This is an amazing book that touches on family, love, friendships, trauma – dealing with death and abuse. I was deeply hurt and triggered by the renditions of abuse and rape in this book, but just as I said earlier, it was an important part of the story that needed to be told. The relationships in this book, just like the characters, are very complex and go through different stages as they evolve. This can be attributed to the growth of the characters. The book starts off when Echo is 6, and it is told in a non-linear timeline shuffling through different points in time. We see the characters (most of whom are Echo’s friends and within her age group), growing and evolving, and so do their relationships.
Other important issues this book dealt with include colorism and racism, as we see the impact racism and classism had on Echo’s family and neighborhood. Colorism also affected how Echo saw and thought of herself, and how other people treated Jesse as less than a real black man because of his skin color. Sexism was also touched on, as black boys and men in this book refused to acknowledge the struggles of black women, whilst wanting black women to fight for them.
Echo Brown narrated this audiobook, and she did such a wonderful job! Her rendition of the events, performance of the voices (she did a distinct voice for the characters and you could just tell who was who), and she had the power to just make you feel all the feels while listening!
This book really hit me hard, and it is one I won’t forget in a hurry. I recommend it to everyone.
*I am taking part in the Sep 2020 Bratz Readathon, and this book fits the prompt – Melanin Queen – an own voices book with a black main character.
Profile Image for kate.
1,148 reviews926 followers
April 30, 2020
An incredibly inspiring and powerful story of strength, trauma, perseverance and hope.

This wasn't an easy read by any means. It was filled with pain and trauma but the careful way in which these aspects of Echo Brown's story were woven together to create this story was so moving, it was hard to put down.

I listened to the audiobook, which added a whole new emotional connection to the story. I did find it to be a little confusing at first, due to the structure of the time changes and flash backs but once I got used to this, I was captivated by Echo Brown's story and voice.

Overall, this was an important, beautiful and unflinchingly honest exploration of Echo Brown's life as a Black woman living in America from the age of six until she leaves home and goes to college and a book I would highly recommend.

TW: child sexual abuse, rape, discussion of suicide, trauma, suicidal ideations, racism
Profile Image for Romie.
1,075 reviews1,272 followers
January 31, 2020
this was such a brilliant story. the way it deals with trauma with such care, the way it portrays women being there for each other, women fighting for what they deserve, this was truly magical. I find it so hard to believe it's Echo Brown's first book, because this was so powerful, written so beautifully, hard-hitting when it needs to be... I will definitely, definitely, read whatever else Echo Brown comes up with. I just want to thank her for sharing part of her story with us. (4.5)

trigger warnings: death of a parent, suicide attempts, rape, pedophilia, racism, sexism, depression

thank you libro.fm and henry holt & company for the audio listening copy
Profile Image for Banal Girl.
459 reviews95 followers
July 18, 2020
I have finished this book now and am speechless.
I'm not used to reading acknowledgments, but today it happened and I'm sobbing.
I can't give a rating right now.

------ weeks later -----
This is incredible. It deserves 5 fives.
Please read this book!
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
January 2, 2020
This fabulist novel is going to be a powerful read for many, while it'll be a bit confounding for others. This is why it's quite magic. The audience will find it and connect deeply.

Echo is growing up on the East Side of Cleveland with her mother, who is addicted to drugs and who is the victim of sexual assault, along with two bothers, one of whom lands in juvenile detention for a period of time. But she's exceptionally resilient, and part of that is because she's really a wizard. She can turn every day situations around using the power of her mind. She can choose to tap into the darkness and black veil that surrounds everyone or she can turn toward their lightness. Echo strikes up a friendship with Elena, a white-passing, queer hijabi, and together, they use their wizarding powers to help Echo's brothers see their own potential.

But then something tragic happens to Echo and she sees herself in her own mother's shoes. She's detached from reality, from her world, and she doesn't know if she has the power to go on. Until she remembers the power she has within her and discovers a passion for words, for poetry, and for wanting to rise from her situation and live her best dream life.

Told in a non-linear fashion, this is a book about literal Black girl magic. It's about race and poverty, about intergenerational trauma, and about the ways Black women have always been systemically oppressed. Echo herself is dark skinned and experiences not only racism, but also colorism; this becomes a huge challenge for her when she's given the opportunity to thrive in a new living situation, where she sees what looks like a healthy, functioning interracial relationship.

Brown's debut novel is about Black pain, but it's also about Black magic, Black resilience, and Black lives that can thrive, even when the world around them wants them not to. It's a challenging read for all that we see Echo and her family go through, as well as how Brown chooses to tell the tale in disparate timelines and in vignettes. The payoff, though, both for Echo and for the reader, is more than worth it.

Though darker than Learning to Breathe or Calling My Name, both would make for excellent read alikes for Brown's title.
Profile Image for rafaella.
92 reviews100 followers
December 26, 2020
The magic wasn’t what I had in mind going into this. At the same time, some aspects — especially rape made it hard to read. Overall I really loved the messages and the characters in this book and what the main character represents.
Profile Image for Ryan Buckby.
652 reviews88 followers
July 30, 2020
actual rating: 4.5/5 stars

Trigger warning: Rape, Drug Abuse, Abuse, Racism, Suicide, Child Abuse

Wow. this book i am totally moved by and i honestly didn't think that this book was going to do that to me but it's honestly just left me gobsmacked.

Every single page i was totally engrossed in and just kept to every word that Echo had written because this story was so beautifully told and i can't stop thinking about it. There are little metaphors in every chapter and i loved how they were woven into the entire book it was just so well written. However let me tell you i didn't know where this story was going to go while i was browsing for new books to buy in the book store but the blurb of this book had me hooked and i just didn't know why. After reading this book i now know why it's such a powerfully written story and deals with such heavy topics i recommend people picking this book up.

So many issues were spoken about in this book such as racism, rape, abuse, drug abuse etc it's written in a way that's open and honest that it gives a glimpse into how these things affect people and i'm so glad that i could get an insight into what a women and especially a women of colour has to go through.

This spoke of pain, tragedy and most importantly the recovery part of what happens and it's shows how much strength one person can have. I found myself feeling so many different emotions while i was reading this book and it will be one book that i will have in my mind and will stay there for some time.
Profile Image for Amanda.
840 reviews344 followers
July 6, 2020
This is so excellent! I was expecting this to be fantasy, but it’s more magical realism. Echo and some of the women around her are able to slow time, will miracles and leave their bodies. The reader decides if this is literal magic or the way our minds process trauma. And this book does show many forms of trauma, especially sexual assault and drug addiction. Echo copes with feeling ugly because of her color, sexual assault and trying to achieve academic excellence in a dysfunctional home. She finds friends and family to support her as she struggles to grow. It was a bonus that this took place in the 1980s (?), which led to some discussions of Black Power. I was also pleased with the uplifting ending, which made a beautiful but difficult book easier to bear. It also made me cry in the best way possible. Highly recommend!
Profile Image for sophia ⚹.
293 reviews27 followers
June 28, 2020
100000 crying emojis. this cut me so deep. it’s hard to explain the feeling this book gave me, as it reads very autobiographical and yet also magical and a bit surreal, it feels … the way trauma is described and dealt with in this was painful and raw and real. also the conversation on race and poverty was extremely powerful. woof. what a book.

trigger warnings: child sexual abuse, graphic rape of a minor, drugs and alcohol addiction, suicidal ideation, drug overdose, mentions of murder, death
Profile Image for Nev.
1,056 reviews137 followers
December 23, 2020
Wow. This book was intense. It covers a lot of heavy topics like addiction, rape, and racism. There’s a large emphasis in the story about the specific hardships that Black women face. I thought that the fabulist elements like having a literal black veil that represents depression or women being wizards and using magic to deal with trauma in their lives were really impactful.
Profile Image for belle ☆ミ (thisbellereadstoo).
1,716 reviews140 followers
October 28, 2021
actual rating: 4.5 stars

trigger warnings: rape, sexual assault, death of a parent, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, child abuse, poverty

despite all the odds, echo survived. it’s an incredibly heavy book filled with rape, drug and alcohol abuse, child neglect and poverty. it wasn’t mentally prepared when i first got into the book. just when i thought things were turning around, humanity proves me otherwise. i usually could read a 300 page contemporary within 12 hours, but black girl unlimited was consistently making me emotional that i took breaks in-between.

i think the magical realism aspect is one of the most poignant way in describing how powerful black women are. to be able to overcome all the difficulties, obstacles and horrible things that were happening to them. also, imbued in the book are topics of white supremacy and racism which were faced by the black community.

echo brown’s writing style is unique. there were times where the scenes changed in the middle of a sentence. i was initially a little confused with the jump but i got used to it quickly. also, the writing is very straightforward. that’s why many of the hard-hitting scenes felt extremely realistic and it’s just in your face. for me, it’s not a bad thing. i appreciated how raw and painful the book was because that’s how echo’s story was.

black girl unlimited is about echo. a young girl who’s discovering what it means to be a wizard. since the book started when echo’s a young child, the readers could read about her entire journey, and the change in personality. from a carefree black girl who’s running around in the fields with her friends, echo became known of the woes of growing up. but she’s always trying to break out of that system. no matter if it’s poverty, education, or drugs, echo is perpetually attempting to do better. alongside the other black women who appeared in the book, echo is resilient, brave and tough. they’re all wizards. constantly fighting the darkness that threatens to devour them.

other characters’s struggles were highlighted as well. in echo’s family, her brothers are slowly descending into drugs and deviating away from their initial dreams, her father is an alcoholic while her mother is abusing drugs. although the situation is bad, echo’s relationship with her brothers are always sweet and a little bittersweet. it goes the same for echo and her mother who is carrying a great deal of guilt and pain of her own.

overall, an incredibly beautiful and heartbreaking story about a wizard named echo, and the people around her. it’s about oppression and racism. it’s about black people, especially black women, surpassing all expectations, raising above the hate and discrimination. black girl unlimited may be filled with trauma and horrifying things happening to the characters, but it’s also about hope, dreams and the fight that exist in everyone if they were to find it. it’s an autobiography like nothing i’ve ever read.
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