An ode to Black girlhood and adolescence as seen through KB's eyes, What the Fireflies Knew follows KB after her father dies of an overdose and the debts incurred from his addiction cause the loss of the family home in Detroit. Soon thereafter, KB and her teenage sister, Nia, are sent by their overwhelmed mother to live with their estranged grandfather in Lansing, Michigan. Over the course of a single sweltering summer, KB attempts to navigate a world that has turned upside down.
Her father has been labeled a fiend. Her mother's smile no longer reaches her eyes. Her sister, once her best friend, now feels like a stranger. Her grandfather is grumpy and silent. The white kids who live across the street are friendly, but only sometimes. And they're all keeping secrets. As KB vacillates between resentment, abandonment, and loneliness, she is forced to carve out a different identity for herself and find her own voice.
A dazzling and moving novel about family, identity, and race, What the Fireflies Knew poignantly reveals that heartbreaking but necessary component of growing up—the realization that loved ones can be flawed and that the perfect family we all dream of looks different up closely.
The Sexy Nerd's Review...
Have you ever read a book where it moved slowly but yet you still found it to be a good story? Welp, this book was it for me. As I could hear KB’s voice in my head while she narrated her story for the reader, I couldn’t help but to think back to my childhood and relive moments that only the adults understood and I had to learn to navigate.
Ten-year old, KB, was doing just that. Being a kid and trying to understand the adult things happening around her. She finds her father dead and that alone is enough to send anyone into orbit, let alone a little girl trying to understand why her father is dead. Her elder sister, Nia, is a teenager and coming into her own having to deal with the trauma of having lost her father too. Their mother having to make decisions for them that KB didn’t quite understand. Being forced to live with a relative they hardly knew and yet the world around her continued to revolve.
Everyone was keeping secrets and no one wanted to come clean as to what was really going on. That is, until KB got tired of living in lies and hiding behind adult secrets and began seeking answers. And, when KB discovers some hard truths, her world begins to unravel even more.
This story evoked some interesting feelings that I hadn’t explored in many years. It took me back to when I was KB’s age trying to understand some ugly truths that just didn’t make sense. Having her big sister growing up before her eyes, discovering boys, and leaving KB behind, she felt lost, confused and abandoned. The more KB got into my head, the more I wanted to explore her emotions. Some of her actions made complete sense and I gave her so much credit for having the guts to finally let the grown ups know that she didn’t like what was happening in her world. This was a very good story.
As the reader continues the journey of KB, you will find yourself thinking about how you felt at that age. I found the story to be a bit boring in the very beginning, but once I got to understand KB, I couldn’t get enough. This was an incredible story. I’m so glad I got to meet KB and get into her world.
The Sexy Nerd gives What the Fireflies Knew five additional fireflies. If you’re looking for a story of strength, family, love and loss, this is the book for you. Until next time, Nerds, you know what to do.