I’m always a little nervous when a friend asks me to review a book on my blog (and sends me an ARC) because what if I hate it? Sure, I liked the last story I reviewed for my friend Michele Tracy Berger, but would I like her novella REENU-YOU (cover by Emma Glaze, all rights remain with current holder)? Happily I did.
Reenu-You is a miracle hair straightener that the protagonists, Kat and Constancia, both use. Unfortunately, it turned out to have A Few Side Effects like grotesque scabs, and before long they and a few other women of color are quarantined, then forced to go on the run from health authorities.
It’s not a thriller though. The plot is less important than the characters, their interactions (Kat, an Aspen ski instructor, and Constancia, a younger New Yorker, are very different) and their thoughts about hair, beauty and the beauty standards society imposes on them (Michele discusses this on one of John Scalzi’s Big Idea posts). I know from other reading that hair is (and has been for a long time) a really complicated subject for many black Americans, but it’s not something I run into much in fiction except in passing (this may, of course, say as much about what I read as what’s been written). And while stories that spends a lot of time on people simply sitting around and talking about stuff like that often doesn’t work for me, this one did.
I was a little thrown by the ending, which on first glance didn’t seem to fit where I thought things were going. When I looked at it again, yes, it worked.