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Leaving Atlanta

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  2,499 ratings  ·  269 reviews
An award-winning author makes her fiction debut with this coming-of-age story of three young black children set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published August 1st 2003 by Grand Central Publishing (first published January 1st 2002)
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3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,499 ratings  ·  269 reviews

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Feb 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For me, this is the first story that I can ever remember reading that shared my voice as a child growing up in a major Southern city. It took place at a time when, first of all, it's tough growing up and being eleven years old and then to deal with a real-live nationally-known bogeyman lurking around the city (the Atlanta Child Murders case). My own memories of that time are vivid; when they found another child, we were in fear several hundred miles away. Leaving Atlanta gave life to the black c ...more
Jamilla Rice
Jun 18, 2012 rated it liked it
In this, her first novel, Tayari Jones illustrates the fears and joys of children on the cusp of adolescence within the backdrop of one of the most frightening national tragedies that most people have not even heard of: the Atlanta Child Murders. Narrating the stories of three 5th graders, (Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia) using third, second, then first person point of view, the story flows like a classic jumprope game, with two of the three children taking a background role while the third stands i ...more
Jun 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, library
It’s funny the things one thinks about in the early morning. After a 2 am feeding, I lay in bed trying to find my way back into dreamland (it’s usually difficult, as once I’m up, I’m up). And I was thinking about the last book I finished, Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones, and how it’s taken me quite a while to sit down and write about it. Because it deserves to be written about. I eventually drifted off to sleep (only to be woken by the wee reader’s grunts around 630 as he stirred but didn’t quit ...more
Renée | Book Girl Magic
Jan 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This books definitely kept me intrigued. This is my second Tayari Jones novel and it was so different from An American Marriage (which I really enjoyed). I love the way she develops characters and makes you feel as if you truly know them.

The Atlanta Child Murders was something I first discovered about a year ago when stumbling upon the Atlanta Monster podcast. I was intrigued to know more about who the killer was and the stories of these poor children. Although fictional, this book was definite
Jul 02, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gr-authors, af-am
I enjoyed reading this account of the Alanta child murders as related from the viewpoint of three children. It makes one remember that children are children. They don't think like adults nor should they be expected to and one should always keep this in mind when dealing with issues involving children.

Leaving Atlanta, delves into different levels of coming of age in a time of racial inequality, parental disciplinaary actions, class disctinctions and the reality that children are being taken by so
Jul 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I’m a huge fan of Tayari Jones and have had her debut novel on my TBR ever since reading Silver Sparrow. So glad I finally placed the library order.
Set against the real-life backdrop of the terrifying murders of black children in Atlanta in 1979, jones provides the children’s viewpoints, living in fear — not just of the murders but of all the unknowns and scary things that come along with 5th grade, puberty, and living as a black youth in Atlanta.
Surprisingly, I felt more sadness and longing t
Jennifer Tam
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
While I waited for her newest book from the library, I took her two previous ones out and just finished Leaving Atlanta which I loved - the author has a beautiful way or writing that brings you right into the story and keeps you interested throughout - I just started her next one “The Untelling” and I’m enjoying it very much and can see how her writing became even better - I can’t wait to read An American Marriage
Feb 19, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☯Emily by: College Station Library Book Club
Between 1979 and 1981, many black children in Atlanta, GA were killed. Ms. Jones explores how these murders affected the children of Atlanta. The novel relates this terrifying time through the eyes of three children. The first story is told in third person, the second in second person, and the last is told in first person. All the stories are horrifying, although the second one about Rodney is especially troubling.

This novel is not just about the murders, but about the trials of growing up in t
May 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
'Leaving Atlanta' is an exceptional historical fiction novel that chronicles the murders of over twenty black children in Atlanta in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Told from the perspectives of three young elementary school students, Tayari Jones weaves a tale of fear, mystery and coming of age in a world so terrifying and uneasy for so many children.

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy more modern historical fiction, true crime novels (though thi
Feb 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: home-library
This is my first Tayari Jones read. The novel was exceptional written(my opinion). It is an emotional, heartbreaking read. I don’t recall much about the “The Atlanta Child Murders” prior to reading the novel which brought awareness to a dark time in American history.
Jan 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Leaving Atlanta tells the story of classmates Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green and Octavia Harrison during their fifth-grade year at Oglethorpe Elementary in Atlanta.

"Might nothing. Think about it. You ain’t never heard of nobody black going around killing people for no reason. That’s white people’s shit."

Tasha is eager to return to school to show off her jump rope skills after practicing all summer to perfect her moves. If she can perfect her foot work then she may gain a spot in the clique of Monic
Apr 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a book that will stay with me for a while. It's shattering, both due to the heavy subject matter and the perspective, so there's no way to respond objectively to the story. I chose this book both for its familiarity (I lived in Atlanta for four years) and for the challenge (my white suburban upbringing differed drastically from the childhoods of the main characters).

Tayari Jones has crafted a story that is both easily accessible and starkly honest, which she does brilliantly by inhabitin
nomadreader (Carrie D-L)
(originally published at

The backstory: Leaving Atlanta is the first novel by Tayari Jones. After adoring her most recent novel, Silver Sparrow (my review), I finally got around to reading this one ("finally getting around to reading" was the theme of much of my holiday break binge-reading!)

The basics: Told in three parts from the perspective of three black middle school students in southwest Atlanta, Leaving Atlanta takes place at the time of the notorious Atla
Aug 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Leaving Atlanta is a story that definitely left its mark on me. Even as I moved on to reading other books, I found my mind returning to the characters in this book, wondering about them as if they were real people I interacted with in my life. Maybe it's because the main characters were children, naive to the world, that I wanted to reach out and protect. Whatever the reason, I was thoroughly impressed with this novel, and probably even more so because of the depth of the story despite its simpl ...more
Taryn Pierson
Feb 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Leaving Atlanta is a novel told in three distinct voices. LaTasha, Rodney, and Octavia are fifth grade classmates living in Atlanta during the time of the real-life child murders in 1980-81. The kids may be living under the same cloud of fear and dread, but Jones demonstrates with some amazing tonal shifts how different their experiences and feelings are.

I hadn't read much about the book before starting it, so when the book opens with Tasha's section, I expected the entire novel to center aroun
Cheryl Durham
Apr 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Let me begin by saying this was my first read by Tayari Jones. But, it won’t be my last. Secondly, it took me back to a sad time: the Atlanta child murders in 1979 - 1981. During this time over 20 children and young adults were murdered. Thirdly and most importantly, for the first time, the story was told through the eyes of the children. The writer enabled Octavia, Tausha and others to show the readers the effect that this had on them and how their innocence was taken as well as their lives for ...more
Nov 18, 2008 rated it really liked it
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now. Tayari is an ASU MFA grad and has a great literary blog. I'm glad I finally got to it because this is a really good story. Somehow I never heard about the Atlanta child murders despite the fact that they occurred during the time when I was growing up. Nevertheless, I completely related to how her young characters experienced the events (the novel is told from the perspective of three different children). Jones does a wonderful job of capturing ...more
Sally Kilpatrick
Dec 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for your Christmas Day reading as I did, but it's well worth a read. Jones has woven a story with a gripping plot, gorgeous prose, spot on dialect, and enduring resonance. Just wow.

Leaving Atlanta tells the story of the 1979 Atlanta Child murders from the point of view of three different 5th graders. What truly makes the book powerful is how the fear of being snatched interweaves itself with all of the normal anxieties of a 5th grader. There would have to be
Mar 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
Following various middle school aged kids during a child snatching murder spree, I related to Octavia the most. Her precious boxes of hammy down clothes from a cousin in another city, not having any friends in middle school, portable trailer classrooms, waiting for her social life to start, and being better friends with a teacher than anyone her own age. This book questions disciplinary methods of parents, looks at the relativity of what it means to have or have not, portrays the nasty realities ...more
Mar 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I love true crime and have read/seen many things dealing with the Atlanta child murders. I listened to it as an audiobook and I felt as though I was transported back in time. I became so invested in the lives of the children that were portrayed in this book. It was so interesting to see how each family dealt with the tragedy, how it affected the children, and how the children were connected, yet came from very different situations. I went through a range of emotions from happy, mad, sad.... Mrs ...more
Never Without a Book™
Jan 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Between 1979 and 1981, black children and adults were killed by a serial killer in Atlanta. Tayari Jones grew up in Atlanta during this time, and two of the murdered children were from her elementary school. (hints why she is a character in the novel)

Leaving Atlanta focuses on three children in the same fifth grade class at the Oglethorpe Elementary School, Tasha, Ronald and Octavia. While they are not really friends with each other, their lives mesh in certain situations providing seamless tran
Traci at The Stacks
Jan 23, 2019 rated it liked it
Jones writing is fantastic. She is great at getting into the minds of the children. Sometimes heartbreaking sometimes so silly and naive. I didn’t always care about their lives or kid issues but loved other parts That dealt with bigger more universal issues. A good book but not totally engaging for me. And the true crime tie in helped.
Kevin Wilkinson
In Tayari Jones' "Leaving Atlanta", the story is set during the summer of 1979 in when hordes of black children were disappearing in a time which was one of the darkest in the history of Atlanta. The plot is centered around three children...three voices: Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia. Each of these voices has a different perspective and the reader is given glimpse of their stories of which issues like divorce, family dysfunction, and socioeconomic status, become apparent.

Tayari Jones plays with vo
Apr 04, 2014 rated it liked it
"Once you see your mama cry, everything is different. Kind of like when you see a picture and it looks like one thing. But then you find out there are twelve apples hidden in the drawing. Once you find the apples, all you can see when you look at the picture is the apples. You forget the main picture you were looking at in the first place. That's how it was with Mama. When I look at her now, I can always see the tears."

This book was an interesting juxtaposition of the normal worries of a fifth g
Heidi Willis
Oct 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Written from the point of view of three children, this book is not about the Atlanta child murders as much as it's about the coming of age of three kids in a terrifying time. The voices of each are distinct and vivid, their relationships and surroundings as much a part of the story as their growing pains. Beautiful and evocative, this book doesn't charge forward with a plot so much as meander through lives almost too fragile to touch.

This brought to mind the more recent spree sniper killings in
Leah Iannone
Apr 17, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was like a 2 1/2 star book. Although fictional it is based on the real life circumstances of the Atlanta murders, a time between 1978 and 1980 where black children were getting kidnapped and killed by a serial killer. The story wasn't as interesting as I had hoped, but it gets points for the style in which it was written. It is told from the points of view of 3 children in different sections of the book, and their stories overlapped at some places. So in one section one person would narrate ...more
Sep 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: debut-novels, novels
Tayari Jones's debut novel is about the Atlanta Child Murders of the late 70s/early 80s that targeted black children, primarily black boys. This is not true crime, but it is written with gorgeous language and emotional depth from Tayari's perspective as someone who grew up during this time period. The novel follows three characters at one elementary school, and their stories are interwoven but unique - it reads almost like three related novellas. One used second person, which may not be for ever ...more
Sezín Koehler
I chose this book off my shelf because I wanted to read a grown-up book after the horrible series of unfortunate events I've just spent the past month reading. What do I find? The story is narrated by three children, who are going through their own series of unfortunate events. SIGH.

That aside, this is a beautifully written and haunting book about the Atlanta Child Murders of the early 80s and the social climate of the time. Incredible. The writing is so vivid I felt more like I was watching a
Ann Douglas
Nov 22, 2010 rated it liked it
Leaving Atlanta is more like three interlinked novellas that a novel. Each of the three novellas is set in the same time and place (Atlanta at the time of the Atlanta child murders: summer 1979 to spring 1981). The book depicts the lives of three young people living in that world at that time. The characters in one story show up in other stories. The author even injects herself into the novel as a minor character. The last two stories work well, but the first story isn't nearly as strong, which ...more
L Davis
Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I read this book a few years ago and I must admit the story didn't touch me then like it does now and I truly believe that being a mom now has a lot to do with that. I say this because my mom and sister read it as well a few years ago and they became emotional. The Atlanta Child Murders has always interested me and this book makes me want to research it more. I need answers!
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Writing in second person 1 12 Mar 21, 2013 07:54PM  
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Tayari Jones is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, The New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Co ...more
“The magic that came from lips could be as cruel as children and as erratic as a rubber ball ricocheting off concrete.” 1 likes
“Kodak commercials say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one they showed of Rodney ain’t worth more than three or four. Boy. Black.” 0 likes
More quotes…