Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Triple Crown Publications; First edition (January 1, 2007)
Book Review by Thumper
Shocked?! You should be. I know I am. Before any of you say anything, I admit that I am somewhat surprised to be reading T. Styles latest novel, Black and Ugly. I began reading the book with a few preconceived notions, which after reading the novel were not disproved. What caught me unaware was that I actually liked the book’and would publicly say it. While I still have issues with aspects of the novel, I can not deny that I enjoyed Black and Ugly.
Black and Ugly features the friendship of four people who grew up in the same housing project: Parade Knight, Miss Wayne, Sky Taylor and Daffany Stans. Parade, who's been told by her mother and her best friend Sky that she's black and ugly, has a major inferiority complex going. Parade is not afraid to go hands up with anyone, mainly because she does not know how attractive she is. Miss Wayne, the circle's only male member is gay, and could be considered the comedy relief of the novel, sells stolen designer clothes for a living. Daffany is a ho, literally. She's makes ends meet by turning tricks. Daffany has a secret that could destroy her friends' lives if it ever got out, because it almost destroyed hers.
Sky is the bitch in the group. Sky is beautiful, catty, and jealous. This skank has no redeeming quality whatsoever. Since Sky believes that she is all that and a bag of chips, she is at her wits ends when she begins to suspect that Parade is sleeping with her boyfriend, Jay Hernandez. Well, how can that be, her fine boyfriend sleeping with Parade, with her black and ugly self? One night Sky's selfish and catty nature comes out and starts a chain of events that will end in murder.
Black and Ugly is a fast-paced story that does not have a lot of extra frills in it, but had enough twists and turns to keep it interesting and entertaining. I read it in half a night. I did have a couple of major problems with the book, character development and a too tidy ending.
The character development in the novel is uneven at best. While Parade is the most developed character in the novel, Miss Wayne and Daffany is blatantly neglected. Obviously from the title of the book, I took it that Parade was the main character. While Styles did spend more time developing Parade. Parade's background, and her relationship with her mother, Styles did not really go deep into Parade why Parade took the verbal and mental abuse from her mother or Sky. But, there was enough development of Parade for me to hang my hat on. I was kinda glad about it.
On the other hand, the other three characters: Sky, Miss Wayne, and Daffany; were mere sketches. Styles put just enough effort into these characters to carry the story and no more. The Miss Wayne character is little more than the stereotypical, comedic, non-threatening gay man. Daffany's history has holes in it, which left me with more questions than answers. Sky was, again, the stereotypical bitch. By not spending a little more time and space fleshing out these characters, Styles did me a disservice. Developing the other three characters would not have minimized the significance of Parade's plight.
The ending of Black and Ugly was too neat. I have a hard time reconciling a story that boasts about its realistic grittiness and violent setting and YET has a colorful, romantic, Disney inspired ending. No, that pup won’t hunt. It all seems too bipolar to me.
Although, I appear to be a little rough on Black and Ugly, I
liked the novel. Styles manage to do something that I thought was long
dead and buried: she made the antiquated three/four sista-girlfriend
format bearable, not fresh just bearable. I appreciate Styles keeping
most of the novel true to its urban setting. Most importantly, Styles
told a good story. I can read and like any book on any subject, set in
any environment IF the story is good. Fortunately, Black and Ugly
is a good one.