In this middle grade novel, Brandy Colbert shows us a piece of suburban life not often explored from a first person point of view — that of a Black girl who has grown up in this environment. As a Black girl from the burbs, I found the perspective of 12-year-old Alberta familiar yet distinctly her own throughout the story.

 cover -  The Only Black Girls In Town

cover – The Only Black Girls In Town

Living in a small beach community in Southern California, Alberta has gone most of her life knowing the only other Black people in her community: her two dads, Kareem and Elliot, one guy in the grade above her, and a few kids in high school. While she’s mostly been fine with it, she often feels that her best friend, Laramie, may not be quite enough when it comes to understanding the tone and negativity being shot at her from resident mean girl Nicolette, and other peers. But then Edie, and her mother Calliope, move to the same street, literally adding color and understanding to Alberta’s life as Black former Brooklynites. Being the only other Black girl in seventh grade does not make the girls instant friends, especially with Edie being a goth and Alberta a surfer girl. However, there are more than enough growing pains between the two that lead them to becoming each other’s confidantes, and fast friends. 

One, Alberta is very uncomfortable with the way all of the girls in her grade seem to be growing in ways her body has not quite caught up to yet. When you add this to the fact that her fathers think that she should wait until she’s 13 to enter surfing competitions, we can see that she needs some moral support through these trying times. 

Two, Edie has moved to Ewing Beach with her mother, leaving her brother and father back in Brooklyn. Dealing with her parents divorce, including separation from half of her family and the city she loves, Edie brings a lot of emotional baggage with a new start in a community that is very different from the one she came from.

Three, despite all of the misgivings that Alberta has voiced with Laramie about how she’s treated by Nicolette, Laramie mysteriously decides that she’ll spend more time with Nicolette than she does with Alberta at the beginning of the school year, immediately after Edie moves to town.

This is a very intriguing set of circumstances that Alberta must face — and I haven’t even mentioned the mystery she and Edie uncover at the latter’s bed and breakfast, nor the entrance of Alberta’s birth mother into the story! 

Colbert does a great job of placing us right into Alberta’s story just as life gets interesting for her circumstantially and at an age where everything seems to shape you for life. I enjoyed that I got to be taken back to how life felt when I was twelve even without having a character that aligned with my own interests at the age — Alberta is way more outdoorsy than I have ever been. I definitely recommend this book to people of any age, there are enough plot shifts and perspectives for this story to appeal to any fan of contemporary novels.