It’s an hour and a half past my bedtime and I just finished reading. My heart is pounding and I can barely breathe. The ending was perfect, but there is so much to think about. So much to dig into and unpack. It was gut wrenching and hopeful. That same duality that is woven all throughout the book.
Best Lightburn is basically her own worst enemy, and she’s got childhood trauma to thank for that. She’s navigating a career writing ‘your best sex’ pieces for Not-Cosmopolitan, but her heart is in a deeper, darker story she’s been trying to get an interview for. She keeps everyone at arm’s length – her parents, her friends, her romances. Especially the romances.
I don’t want to get too much into the story and risk spoiling, so I’ll just list my favorite elements from within it.
1. The Romances
She is deeply desired by men around her. Not as a sex object, but as a person. The men aren’t abusive ‘tortured souls’. They aren’t manipulative and controlling in the name of love. They seek a healthy connection with her, and treat her like a precious gem. She is cherished, even though she often doesn’t feel like she deserves it.
It is refreshing (and needed!) to see a Black woman in this role. Chased, sought after, loved unabashedly. The men here are emotionally healthy and I love to see that representation.
2. The Writing
Nicole Blades has an unparalleled writing style. Her stories immediately capture me and don’t let go until they are completed. She gets deep into the psyche of her characters and reveals their inner world to us. Just like the real world, there is no pure good/bad binary, we are all at varying points on that spectrum. Sometimes we’re more selfish, sometimes giving our all. Sometimes we make decisions that seem right to us, but don’t consider how it’s going to affect the people around us.
These concepts are woven so expertly throughout the story. Best is constantly wrestling with herself, almost feeling that she doesn’t even know how to make good decisions, but we the readers can see her, even beyond what she is narrating to us.
It truly takes a masterful writer to tell this story of internal conflict, of mental turmoil – and make us care every moment. I am compelled to read every page! I don’t often sit and ponder the things about a writing style that I like, after finishing a book, but this one really accomplished something magical.
3. The Deeper Questions
At the end of the book, there is a reader discussion guide and I love that. It provides a great starting point for the book to be talked about and it should be talked about. There are so many discussions to be had about the story and the ways it mirrors the real world.
Best learns what she needs to do to become a healthier person, and we can turn that question inward on ourselves as well. What ways are we hampering our own growth? What mental blocks are getting in the way of healthy relationships with others? How can we learn to navigate our own grief and be there as others walk through theirs?
I’m really not a ‘crier’. I don’t cry often. Never has a book made me cry before! But the way this story turned me absolutely inside out…
I’m sure I will be pondering this book for weeks.
The Thunder Beneath Us is available at various booksellers online. Please go read it and tell me what you think!