aimee dars reads


{Blog Tour and Book Review}

Thanks so much to Algonquin Books for inviting me to participate in the blog tour for Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump and for the gifted copy of the book. Originally published last year to high praise, the paperback edition is going on sale this Tuesday, January 12.

Claude McKay Love, growing up on Chicago’s South Side, feels like everyone he loves leaves. Still, he has the unwavering support of his strong and witty grandma and her best friend, Paul, a photographer who drinks more than he works. His losses make Claude, naturally introverted, more isolated, but when Janice arrives in the neighborhood, he starts to fall in love.

At the same time, Big Columbus, a drug dealer with a mission, stakes a presence in South Shore and starts recruiting students for his gang, the Redbelters. When an unarmed black teenager cat-sitting for a neighbor is killed by police, a standoff between the police and Redbelters becomes a deadly three-day siege.

In the wake of the riot, Claude and Janice, only fourteen-years-old, wrestle with their reactions and responses to the death and devastation they witnessed and what was taken from them. Claude ultimately left Chicago to attend journalism school in Missouri, but he learned that leaving Chicago would take more than changing addresses.

Everywhere You Don’t Belong is my favorite kind of novel, one with language that sings, told through charming yet flawed characters, and imbued with subtle humor. The short chapters give the book a fast pace, accelerated even further with a final dramatic confrontation.

The social commentary is intense, especially after the terrorist attack at the Capitol last week and the anemic and hypocritical response of law enforcement compared to last summer when BLM activists protested in DC. However, it doesn’t overshadow the characters and narrative arcs, and is always intercut with a dark humor.

The paperback edition includes an essay by the author, “The Spectacular Average,” which is worth reading!

I highly recommend this for those who like contemporary or literary fiction. It has a similar style as There There by Tommy Orange and structure to Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson.