Songs of Irie

Macmillan Young Listeners. Oct. 2023. 1,106p. $26.99. ISBN 9781250290441.
Gr 10 Up–Bromfield, who narrated her debut, also voices her second novel. For audiences who might struggle with reading Caribbean patois in print, Bromfield’s confident performance—seamlessly navigating between speech patterns and accents—is to be relished. Bromfield also sings, although repetition of the same lyrics becomes tiresome. Most frustrating is the lack of clear distinction between her two protagonists, who (unevenly) alternate chapters to reveal their polarized realities. In 1976 Jamaica, BFFs Irie and Jilly have just graduated high school to utterly diverging futures: Irie dreams of escaping the ghetto with her music, while wealth cages Cambridge-bound Jilly who’s expected to marry into the island’s reigning political family. Over their final summer together, friendship turns to forbidden love amid the dangers of a racialized, haves vs. have-nots, fatal revolution.
VERDICT Little-known Jamaican history—colonialism, widespread corruption, the unifying power of reggae music

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