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Book Review: Into White by Randi Pink (3/5)

11 Jul

This is an audiobook I got for free as part of a summer reading/listening program at my library. I’ve liked some of these books but none have hit it out of the park for me so I was skeptical going in. I probably didn’t give it the fair assessment it deserved. But I still think I’m right in saying this book has some issues that could have easily been fixed and made the book more enjoyable.


Cover image via Amazon

Into White by Randi Pink

Summary from Amazon:

LaToya Williams lives in Montgomery, Alabama, and attends a mostly white high school. It seems as if her only friend is her older brother, Alex. Toya doesn’t know where she fits in, but after a run-in with another student, she wonders if life would be different if she were . . . different. And then a higher power answers her prayer: to be “anything but black.”

Toya is suddenly white, blond, and popular. Now what?

This book had a lot going for it. It had some strong points to make about race, class, and gender. There were points in this book that gave me bad flashbacks to high school because they felt accurate. However, there were some points that were too much for me. I felt the way Pink worked Jesus into the story as a character was inconsistent. Toya goes from disbelief to acceptance to a very casual and angry attitude very quickly and that upset me. I thought the book tried to put almost too much into such a short story and I felt a bit overwhelmed at times, too. Let me get into this more.

The characters here felt well drawn and credible. Toya and her family were great. I loved her parents and Alex. A lot of YA books either ignore or villainize parents and Pink did neither of those. Her mother and father were very distinct characters and I liked seeing the development of their characters and how they interacted with their children. Alex was a great character and I thought his progression seemed logical. The other students were great, too, and their catty attitudes reminded me of high school. Deante bothered me just a little because I don’t like the idea of ‘Boys are mean to you because they like you.’ I don’t want to teach a girl to think that. If a boy is mean, don’t be friends with him. If you’re a boy who likes a girl, be nice to her. Why can’t we push that narrative?

I liked Alex best as a character. Toya was a bit of a yoyo at times with her emotional state and it seemed overexaggerated. Alex was more level headed, even when he was being a rebellious teenager. I was a little thrown off by his desire to be popular and fit in at the beginning because it seemed to fade pretty quickly. After finishing the book, that seemed more like an out-of-place blip compared to his character the rest of the book.

While I didn’t relate to Toya’s feelings of rejection based on race, I experienced feelings of rejection in high school because of how I looked and dressed. I know I’m probably not the first woman who was teased for being pudgy, having glasses and braces and dressing in ‘uncool’ clothes but that doesn’t make it hurt less. I was never one of the twins or in that social circle by any means. Like Toya, I wondered what it would be like to be a ‘popular kid’ for a few days. If this any indication, maybe it’s best I never found out.


Randi Pink Image via Goodreads

I was on a run when I listed to the part about Alex fighting Josh and that honestly pumped me up for the rest of my run. Alex was such a good older brother and the fact that he got in a fight to defend her made me like her more. I don’t encourage violence, don’t get me wrong. I probably wouldn’t have done with Alex did. But I respected him for that being his only fight.

Please read this whole paragraph before jumping on my back. I didn’t like that Jesus was a character in this book. When he first appeared, I was weary because I thought it would make the lesson feel a little heavy handed which is something I feel a good YA book avoids. In the end, it did feel heavy handed so my fears were founded. The second reason I didn’t like it was that Toya’s attitude toward him fluctuated wildly and it felt inconsistent. If it was a less divine character, it would have felt even more odd. I felt that her change could have either been unexplained or Jesus could have been a voice instead of a physical character. Especially if that character is going to borrow stranger’s cars to go joy riding and talk about the virtues of the Twilight series.

The audiobook was narrated by Adenrele Ojo. I liked how she voiced Toya and her family. She let silly elements of them feel like caricatures without it feeling belittling. I loved how serious the family got about Unsolved Mysteries. There was a wide cast in this book and I felt Ojo gave them all a good voice.

Toya longed to be someone different and felt her life would be improved if she changed. Though a bit heavy handed, she saw that. She saw how beautiful her life was as is and how cosmetic changes don’t change who you are as a person. And, as always, the grass wasn’t greener on the other side. I thought the lessons in this were a bit run-of-the-mill but Pink did have a unique approach to it.

Writer’s Takeaway: I think Pink wanted to do too much with this book. Throwing in racial-based ideas of beauty with rape and social cliques and religion started to feel overwhelming. I wish she’d focused a little more so she could dive into one or two of these topics instead of feeling like I was drinking from a firehose a few times.

Overall, an enjoyable book but nothing that blew me away. Three out of Five Stars.

Until next time, write on.

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