When Claudia Coleman returns home from her annual summer trip to her grandmother’s house, she finds her best friend, Monday Charles, has seemingly disappeared. She won’t answer phone calls, doesn’t show up to school, and can’t be found around her neighborhood. Claudia, who normally spent all her time with Monday, begins investigating, seeking out Monday’s parents and those who knew her. She finds no one wants to talk about Monday, much less acknowledge her absence, even her family. However, things aren’t adding up, and Claudia begins to suspect the worst. Meanwhile, navigates the world without Monday, which entails joining dance classes, struggling through the eighth grade, and trying to uncover her identity without her closest friend.
Told through three different time frames (“The After,” The Before,” and “Before the Before”) Tiffany D. Jackson’s story unfolds as both a mystery and a coming-of-age novel, exploring the lives of two brilliant girls trapped in the difficult situations around them. The time frames, which blend seamlessly into one chronological story at the beginning, then fracture before the reader’s eyes. This only adds to the mystery, as it is unclear what event divided the before and after. However, this narrative structure also causes some confusion, and I had to reread several parts of the novel before I understood what was happening.
To continue, Jackson commits to the perspective of Claudia, which is both compelling and at times frustrating, since Claudia is not always likeable. Her short temper, insecurity, and selfishness often guide her choices, and while characteristics like that are relatable for teenagers, they distract from the narrative and diminished the emotional weight of some of the events that take place. Nonetheless, I applaud her showcasing of fully-fleshed characters of color, and I am especially excited to see protagonists of color for the reader to relate to.
The major events themselves are nonetheless devastating, and Jackson does not shy away from showcasing their brutal and horrifying nature. Furthermore, she creates a somber discomfort in these moments, which are so close to reality, that remains long after you finish the book. In this Jackson succeeds in leaving the reader with hard questions about community responsibility, gentrification, and the consequence of structural racism in the United States.
I would highly recommend Monday’s Not Coming for fans of realistic fiction, and readers hoping to learn more about real-world issues through the lens of YA. It is a relatively quick read (although it demands rereading to fully appreciate it), and its impact is much greater than many other books of the genre.
Content Warning: Abuse, Assault, Racism, Violence