376 pages (Hardbound) ~ YA Fiction
2019~ Harper Teen
My Rating: 4/5 Stars
The deeply secretive Black Coats have been exacting vengeance on men who hurt girls and women for years. And Thea has just received an invitation to join them. This is the opportunity she’s been waiting for to finally get justice for her cousin Natalie, whose killer went free.
Thea dives head first into the group, training every day with other girls whose stories rival hers. Together they carry out Balancings—acts of revenge guaranteed to teach a lesson. With every predator threatened, every blackmailer exposed, and every date rapist punished, Thea can feel herself getting closer to avenging Natalie’s death.
But then the Balancings begin to escalate in brutality, and Thea discovers that the Black Coats are not all they seem to be. Thea must confront just how far she’s willing to go for justice—and what kind of justice Natalie, and Thea herself, deserve. Because when the line between justice and revenge is razor thin, it’s hard not to get cut.
“Soulevez-vous, femmes de la vengeance”
“Raise up, women of revenge”
Even though the synopsis was really intriguing, The Black Coats is not typically the type of YA a book that I would ever pick up. I generally stick to fantasy and dystopian when I venture into YA territory. But isn’t that the point of a reading challenge- encouraging you to read things that you would never have picked up otherwise? I think so, and I am actually really glad that I picked this up. It has a really interesting and unique concept, one that I have heard many people call “unrealistic,” but I am definitely not looking for reality in my books, so I was ok with that. The Black Coats are a vigilante group of women who hold various positions of power in their Community. The community, in this case, is Austin, TX. They’re sworn to right the wrongs done to women. In other words- they take matters into their own hands when the law fails to punish men for their crimes against women. They also have a long history that reaches back generations and influence that reaches beyond Austin. They reminded me of ninja-witches (minus the magic). Instead of using magic to achieve their goals, they use their physical prowess and the numerous skills of the women in their secret organization- lawyers, policewomen, politicians, etc. However, they are not a perfect organization. I loved that the reader was meant to question this from the start. Our main character, Thea, who is a funny, endearing, and typical 17-year-old, quickly starts to see the issues within the organization, but she grapples with the notion that they are also administering “justice.” The book brings up a lot of interesting questions – The most valuable bring – vengeance vs justice. Can revenge ever really buy true justice or bring peace? Will revenge lessen the grief of losing someone you love? These are all questions that the characters have to figure out for themselves which was something I felt we could all relate to. Despite the seriousness of these issues, Thea is still able to find real purpose, friendship, and clarity as a member. Ultimately, the book has a very hopeful message about what women, and men, can accomplish through true friendship and understanding.
What I didn’t love:
- One complaint was that certain plot points were a little predictable- there was a lot of foreshadowing and certain elements just seemed inevitable.
- I also would have liked more history on The Black Coat National organization- I get that there is only so much room in a book for Oakes to explore all of this, but I had a lot of questions about the organization outside of Austen and I felt like that would have been a really fascinating connection.
Possible trigger warnings here: rape, domestic violence
Overall, I really enjoyed it- It was a quick read with a really interesting message and I would definitely recommend it to other YA readers.
Note: I received a copy of The Black Coats from BookSparks in exchange for an honest review and as a #YAWRC2019 ambassador. Thank you so much BookSparks.