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Nicola Yoon’s ‘One of Our Kind’ is a page-turning thriller set against a backdrop of racism

Nicola Yoon is the author of several young adult books. "One of Our Kind" is her first novel for adults.
Courtesy photo
Nicola Yoon is the author of several young adult books. "One of Our Kind" is her first novel for adults.

Best-selling young-adult author Nicola Yoon releases her first novel for adult readers this week, and it’s a doozy — a creepy tale of suburban suspense set against a backdrop of racism and police brutality.

“One of Our Kind” tells the story of Jasmyn and King Williams, who move to a purposefully designed Black utopia known as Liberty, California. Jasmyn is expecting the couple’s second child, another son, and she appreciates living in a community where her boys don’t have to worry about being profiled or harassed for the color of their skin.

Jasmyn works as a public defender. And as the family settles into the new neighborhood, she feels torn between her life of privilege and her instinct to fight for social justice. When she tries to start a Black Lives Matter chapter in Liberty, she realizes that most of the residents would rather book spa treatments at the town’s wellness center than protest racial injustice. Little by little, she starts feeling like something’s not quite right.

This novel gives off serious “Get Out” vibes, along with “The Stepford Wives” and any number of other psychological thrillers that keep you guessing at what’s going on beneath the surface. Yoon’s characters talk honestly about race and the various strategies of speaking out or fitting in. When Jasmyn ponders why some women straighten their hair rather than embracing natural hairstyles, her husband deems her “Blacker than thou.”

Artful writing and pacing sustain the tension to the very end. And this is a story you’ll want to talk about afterward.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.