Wander in the Dark by Jumata Emill

Jumata Emill writes a killer murder mystery with his new young adult novel, Wander in the Dark. It will lead readers down circuitous paths as they attempt to follow the clues and resolve the murder of Chloe Danvers.

Set in New Orleans at the time of mardi gras in February, the novel features the family drama of Marcel and Amir Trudeau. The two teen brothers are estranged, however, because their father, Martin Trudeau is himself guilty of adultery. Now the famous chef is married with a second family who seems to have it all in Amir’s eyes: connections, cash, and closeness. When Marcel invites Amir to his birthday party, Amir only goes because Chloe has also hinted that he should come. And Chloe is a temptation that Amir can’t resist: she’s confident, pretty, and one of Marcel’s best friends.

Amir is also tired of having to endure the rejection and othering that he has experienced since childhood. Convinced that his father divorces his mother because Amir isn’t perfect enough, ambitious enough, or good enough for his now-famous father, Amir believes he’ll never be the man his father wants him to be. He’ll never be “that kind of Trudeau” (37).

After leaving Marcel’s party, Chloe sends mixed signals to Amir. Is she flirting, teasing, or sincere? The two end up spending the night together since Chloe’s parents are out of town and Chloe is afraid to be alone. She has something she wants Amir to do, she claims. But that night, while passed out on the Danvers’ couch, Amir doesn’t hear someone enter the house and murder Chloe. Now he has been accused of murder.

The novel follows the case as Marcel refuses to give up on his brother. Marcel is determined to vindicate Amir and avenge his best friend, Chloe. As afraid as he is for his life, Amir seems almost resigned to his fate: he’s a Black man being framed for murder. Yet, Marcel is not giving up, despite Amir’s outburst directed at his brother: “You’ll never understand where I’m coming from. You ain’t really Black like me. . . . You’re privileged, Marcel. . . . Privileged to live in your bougie bubble where you don’t have to think about race or worry about anyone thinking less of you. You have the money. The status. [White people] have accepted you” (156).

Although Marcel’s sleuthing nearly gets him killed, the two boys learn some valuable lessons: that innocence is not in skin color, that Truman Academy—where the teens attend school—is a microaggressive hotbed, and that family bonds run as deep as the grave. Worried that he won’t be able to work on his family relationships from prison, Amir further learns that his love for his father is buried under heaps of resentment and anger,

While Emill’s book is a murder mystery, it is also a story about family—how harboring hatred can damage bonds, how messy and beautiful relationships can be, and how honesty and tears can get a person to a better place. This is also a book about race, one that profiles the love interests and heroism of young Black men rather than criminalizing them, one that helps the world see beyond skin color, fear, and suspicion.

  • Posted by Donna

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