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I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

February 27, 2022

Two high school girls: one black, one white. Lena and Campbell aren’t friends. They don’t even understand each other over the vast racial divide. But when the city all around them is up in flames, none of that matters anymore, as they are forced to rely on each other. Lena and Campbell must depend on their smarts, instincts, and each other to survive the most dangerous night they’ve ever experienced. After a violent fight breaks out at a school football game, Lena takes cover in Campbell’s concession stand, right in the middle of the chaos. When gunshots get mixed into the fight, along with some racist police figures, the girls need to get out. Campbell is relieved to see police arrive, but Lena views it as a greater danger. The only way they can make it home is to trust and rely on each other.  Chaos surrounds the two girls, violence and hate fill the air around them, as they run for their lives through their riot-, hate-, and loot-filled city. Turmoil throws the two together, and now Lena and Campbell’s differences don’t seem as important as getting out alive.  Can Lena and Campbell spend the worst night of their lives thrown together in a shack, and form an unlikely alliance and sense of desperate trust? Can two girls bridge a racial divide, in the hopes of survival?   

This novel was written in first-person, dual perspectives, allowing the reader to get both sides of the night in the most detailed way possible. The chapters switch at suspenseful moments, and sometimes in the middle of a conversation. The next chapter picks up right away, seconds from when the last one ended, so the audience doesn’t feel like they’re missing any part of the story. Because the perspectives change during important, suspenseful, and controversial moments, readers get both girls’ opinions on most matters and readers see how each perspective fully embodies the characters and their personalities. Kimberly Jones wrote Lena’s point  of view, and Gilly Segal wrote Cambell’s. The grammar and wording throughout the book changes depending on which character the audience is reading at the moment. Lena uses more slang, and different  grammar, both in the dialogue and body of the chapters. Campbell uses more “conventional” grammar and less slang. Each chapter is written to embody their personalities, and it augments and accentuates the differences in their upbringing, which makes reading it more realistic, and shows the reader how big the divide they have to bridge is. The book moves at an extremely fast pace: because the night is so suspenseful, readers want to know what happens next.

Lena, a “queen bee” at their mostly black school in Atlanta, has been living here her whole life, and as a black woman, is used to racism, and violence in her town. Campbell, the new girl—both to the school and Atlanta— has never been around so many people of a different race. She grew up in a highly white area, and has never been in an environment filled with police brutality, racism, fights, or riots.

I’m Not Dying With You Tonight is a debut novel, written by two authors, Kimberly Jones— an American author who is also known for the viral video How We Can Win, posted during the George Floyd protests— and Gilly Segal— an author from Florida, who lives in, and calls Georgia home; she also works as a lawyer for an advertising agency.

Jones and Segal wrote this novel to take place in a town in Atlanta, Georgia, and it is loosely based around an incident during the Baltimore protests of 2015. Jones and Segal show the importance of sharing experiences from multiple people and how certain situations can affect anyone, no matter their race.

This novel helped me understand what was happening around the George Floyd protests and riots. Without this book I could not have had a clear understanding of police brutality, violence, and mass destruction as I do now, as a white, female, young adult who has mostly grown up in rural Maine, and has never personally experienced racism or violence in a way that others might. I have much more left to learn, but this book gave me a sense of understanding, and gave me enough knowledge and details to form my own opinion on certain ideas, and have conversations with others on these important truths about our country. I feel like I can now talk about this type of situation with an educated reason behind my opinions. This novel also made me more curious and feel more empathy, which made me want to know more about George Floyd and all the events that have happened in the past few years (2020-2022).

On a more lighthearted note, this book, while bringing awareness to very serious topics,  also has a few classic teen issues and encounters that are mixed in with the suspenseful night. This novel explores unlikely friendships, trust issues, catcalling, and normal teen emotions and relationships such as boyfriends, home troubles, pressure, and money issues. This sense of normal obstacles that these girls face make it feel more relatable, and give a sense that this could and does actually happen. Jones and Segal thoughtfully added these important details to make the audiences’ experience smoother, and made the situations that Lena and Campbell have to go through feel that much more realistic, which gives readers something to connect to the characters about. 

This book was eye-opening and showed the significance of how one’s upbringing can change and warp your perspective on events and impact how people move throughout the world. Racism, sexism, violence, and perspective play a large role in how people navigate their lives, and how they rely on their judgment, and trust themselves to make decisions. Readers will get a chance to see two very different sides of a tense and dangerous night, allowing anyone (black or white) to learn about others’ perspectives. This novel examines the roots of unlikely friendships, and explores two girls, forced to rely on each other for survival as they struggle to understand each other’s point of view.

Beatrix

Sourcebooks Fire, 272 pages


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