Book Review

The Weight Of Blood

The Weight of Blood

  • Author: Tiffany D. Jackson
  • Genre: YA Horror
  • Publication Date: September 6, 2022
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books

Thank you to YA Books Central and Katherine Tegen Books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. You can see my review on YA Books Central here.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

CONTENT WARNING: bullying, emotional/verbal/physical abuse, racism, abuse, violence, blood, police violence, gore, racial slur, gun violence, suicide

When Springville residents—at least the ones stlll alive—are questioned about what happened on prom night, they all have the same explanation…Maddy did it. 

An outcast at her small-town Georgia high school, Madison Washington has always been a teasing target for bullies. And she’s dealt with it because she has more pressing problems to manage. Until the morning a surprise rainstorm reveals her most closely kept secret: Maddy is biracial. She has been passing for white her entire life at the behest of her fanatical white father, Thomas Washington.

After a viral bullying video pulls back the curtain on Springville High’s racist roots, student leaders come up with a plan to change their image: host the school’s first integrated prom as a show of unity. The popular white class president convinces her Black superstar quarterback boyfriend to ask Maddy to be his date, leaving Maddy wondering if it’s possible to have a normal life. But some of her classmates aren’t done with her just yet. And what they don’t know is that Maddy still has another secret…one that will cost them all their lives.

New York Times bestselling author Tiffany D. Jackson returns to the horror genre with a chilling and suspenseful story about the real horrors of American racism and the terrifying power of one girl to reclaim her life.

This book … I’ve been thinking about it for two days, and I still don’t quite feel like I can come up with the right words to write a review that will do this book justice. If you’ve read my blog for more than a minute, you’ll know that I rarely read horror, but I’ll make an exception for Tiffany D. Jackson every chance I get. And she didn’t miss with this book.

It’s an homage to Stephen King’s classic Carrie, with a modern twist, and Jackson nails it. She sets the book in the south, in 2014, and adds the element of racism to create a unique yet realistic spin on the story, and I found myself unable to put it down. In addition, the story flashes forward with snippets of a podcast examining various facets to figure out what exactly happened on that fateful night. While the podcast is definitely biased (it’s titled “Maddy Did It,”) it offers a different perspective, and we get to see aspects of the story that we don’t get to see from the original telling, which I was surprised to discover that I enjoyed.

It’s hard not to like Maddy right off the bat. I mean, it’s tough being a teenager, but she has it especially rough. Not only is she hiding half of her identity, a side of herself that she knows absolutely nothing about and has no connection to, but she lives in an abusive household. Her father is emotionally, physically, and verbally abusive towards her, and forces religion on her. It’s like she lives in an alternate universe, where she’s stuck in the 1950s. And teenagers aren’t always kind, especially to people who don’t fit in, so she gets bullied at school on a regular basis. It’s clear that the poor girl is already a nervous wreck, and doesn’t have any outlet for it—no friends, no family support, nothing. So when her biracial identity is revealed after the sudden rainstorm, the bullying only gets worse:

“He wondered what she thought of the aftermath of her hair video, how it had divided the entire town. He’d watched her once in AP Chemistry. Not checking her out, just curious about Jules’s daily punching bag. The way she picked at her nails, clawed at her hair, fidgeted in her musty sweater.”

Once Maddy’s deepest and darkest secret is very publicly revealed, she is not only bullied by the white kids, but she’s pushed away by the Black kids. They see her as having internalized racism, while never taking the time to really get to know her or understand her reasons for living her life as white. There’s a big divide between the Black kids and the white kids in the school, and there’s one kid, Kendrick, who straddles that line. While he’s Black, he dates the white class president, is the quarterback for the football team, and hangs out with all the white kids who accept him. But he begins to question his own loyalties when he sees the abuse that Maddy faces, and his sister’s participation in Black societies as she challenges his own beliefs and actions. Once he starts to be open to questioning the status quo, things aren’t as comfortable for him:

“‘It is exhausting. ‘Cause no matter what you do, you can’t outgrow, out-lie, out-perform, out-play, out-run, or out-joke being different. And, after a while, it starts hurting, like in your chest, being something you not. The older you get and the more you learn just how different you really are, you get tired of trying to blend in.’”

As things worsen for Maddy, she starts to notice some changes within herself. Unexplainable events occur when she’s under major stress, or when she gets angry. And as she explores that, she starts to realize something she never noticed. Watching Maddy come into her own power and realizing that she didn’t have to be a victim was one of my favorite parts of the story, and while she could easily be seen as a villain, in fact was painted as a villain for much of the outside perspectives in the story, I just couldn’t manage to think of her as a villain. I couldn’t blame her for anything that she did, and was proud to see her stand up for herself finally. The only thing I didn’t like was the tiny hint of ableism, where once she developed her power, she suddenly was cured of needing glasses.

The town itself was so problematic, and the worst part was that so many of the residents never even saw it as problematic. It had roots as a sundown town, and had segregated proms into the 2010s. For a town to have a Black prom and a white prom, right within walking distance of each other in 2014 was absolutely inconceivable to me, yet the residents never saw it as an issue. In fact, the white kids were against an integrated prom, and even the adults were resistant to changes in how the town worked. They saw nothing wrong with the way things were:

“Springville had been a peaceful town until all the gossip from the high school spread into the streets. Blacks and whites always got along fine—everyone knew their place.”

Despite basically knowing how this was going to go, I found myself rooting for Maddy throughout the story. I loved watching her grow and come out of her shell—seeing someone else get to know her and learn how to appreciate the person that she is for who she is. She’s smart and funny and intriguing, and has so much to offer, and it broke my heart to not only see people constantly picking on her, but also to see everyone blame her for their own actions to avoid consequences. This book isn’t scary because of Maddy—it’s scary because it reflects society so accurately, and because it reflects the mental gymnastics people are willing to do to avoid accepting the consequences of their own actions. It’s a scathing commentary on society, on the work that needs to be done on race relations, and a hopeful message about the power that a single person can have on another individual.

People who have sat around with me while I’m reading, especially when there’s a surprising reveal, a shocking plot twist, or an unexpected event often look up in alarm when I gasp audibly. The gasp factor is directly related to the number of times I audibly gasp during a reading, and there isn’t an upper limit.

Gasp Factor: 11

4 replies »

  1. Great, great, great review!! I saw the cover of this in WP reader and clicked because it looked so interesting…until I saw it was horror, but now I’m intrigued! (I don’t read horror, usually…no particular reason, I just gravitate to fantasy.) Was about to say the synopsis sounds a bit like CARRIE, but looks like you thought so, too. Hmm, I think I’ll have to add this to my TBR. (Also, wtf, her father made her pass as white?? Wow.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you! I’m totally not a horror reader, but this is absolutely worth the read. And the author herself says it’s an homage to Carrie in the acknowledgements – it’s dark and twisted but so, so good! I really hope you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

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