They Come in All Colors by Malcolm Hansen is a coming of age story based in the 1960’s during the Civil Rights movement. Our main character, Huey, takes us back and forth between his 8 year old self in the small town of Akersburg, GA, and his teenage self in NYC where he attends the prestigious Claremont prep school. Huey is biracial with a white father and a black mother and the entire story is told from his perspective, as a child and then as a teen. The plot also skips between several places and times in what appears to be randomly at first, but as the book moves forward it begins to make more sense.
Reading about the Civil Rights protests in a small town in the Deep South through an 8 year old’s eyes is disconcerting at the very least. I sometimes felt like I wanted to race through these parts just so I could find out how Huey finally finds out/realizes that he’s not actually white, and how he deals with it. Seeing racial tension rise to boiling point through a kid’s eyes felt very eye opening: and the narrative is so well written that you feel like you are there with him, trapped in this mind of a kid who doesn’t really understand the absolute stupidity of adults, as well as the deeply rooted issues that are being fought against.
I love how well-rounded Huey is as a character. He’s a real teenager, he has to deal with all the issues regular teens deal with as well as living in a new city which is night and day from his home town, but also the issue of not fitting in, even in the more progressive north. He’s still the only biracial kid in his school where white supremacy is all powerful. Huey’s vision comes from what he has been taught, and what he believes to be the truth: and he has a hard time reconciling everything he has seen in his life.
I don’t want to add too many spoilers, and if I start getting into the plot I will. Let me just say that this novel is a gem. It took me a few chapters to get into it though as Huey’s narrative is very much stream of consciousness. His thoughts are all over the place, so it takes a while to get used to it. I’m so glad I didn’t let myself just be lazy and put it aside though, because They Come in All Colors is brilliant. It’s an epic view on recent history, and on today as well, but also an excellent display of how a childhood is shaped by events within the family and also current events, and how we hiding the truth to avoid pain often causes more pain down the line...
I just want everyone to read this book! They Come in All Colors will be published on May 29th, 2018 by Simon & Schuster. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the advance copy of this novel.