Ashe is young. She is smart. She is going places and doing great things. But Ashe is scared and has every right to be. In her area, young girls her age are going missing at an alarming rate, and no one seems to be taking the situation seriously. When she finds out she has been nominated to participate in AmeriCorps National Service Program, she is ecstatic. Her mother is a former member, and that only makes the opportunity sweeter. Ashe has what it takes to be an asset to the program, but she can’t seem to shake the fear that being away from her mother may lead her down a dark road.
Black Star, by M.J. Jones, addresses many tough and timely topics including human trafficking and racism. Jones’s main character, Ashe, is both mature and caring. She gives everything she has to the betterment and protection of others. Jones spends a great deal of time in the first chapters developing her character and drawing readers toward her. While she is portrayed as socially conscious, Ashe is also the typical teenager with interests in music and pop culture. This makes her a grounded and authentic character that is easy to empathize with.
I was honestly taken aback at the turn events took early on in Jones’s novel. I had some expectations going into the book after reading the early conversations between Ashe and her mother Mia. To say I was stunned at the sudden shift is an understatement. Jones has given readers the ideal introduction to her main characters right before plunging into the heart of the plot. I truly did not anticipate Ashe and Mia’s storyline spinning toward the science fiction genre, but Jones has managed this twist masterfully.
Not usually drawn to books written in the present tense, I was, at first, put off by Jones’s choice to present her narrative in this way. After a few chapters, however, I completely forgot any misgivings, and I realized that seeing the story in what amounts to real-time gives readers an even stronger sense of urgency when it comes to Ashe’s dilemma.
Black Star is a thought-provoking and spellbinding story and I enjoyed the science fiction elements immensely. Jones has handed readers a well-developed and well-written cast of characters within an amazing storyline. Readers across genres will appreciate Jones’s work and look forward with anticipation to the next book in this trilogy.