A love letter to 90s R&B era in Brooklyn
Tiffany D. Jackson has knocked it out of the park yet again with LET ME HEAR A RHYME. When Steph is murdered, Jasmine,Steph's younger sister, and Quadir and Jarrell, Steph's best friends, are left in grief, not knowing what to do. Then, they decide to do the impossible: make Steph a legendary music artist with the tracks he left behind, all while making sure no one knows the artist behind the music is actually dead. As Steph's (known to everyone else as "The Architect") music grows in popularity, the three friends have to keep working harder and harder to keep his secret...and keep their own.
While all of Jackson's novels are unique, readers of ALLEGEDLY and MONDAY'S NOT COMING will recognize her gift for weaving layered mysteries with complex, engaging characters. Jasmine was my favorite this time around, but Quadir and Jarrell also have excellent story lines and development. The chapters switch between the three of them with an occasional flashback to Steph. Voice is one of Jackson's many strengths, and before long, I didn't need the name in the chapter title to tell whose perspective I was following.
One worry I sometimes have with YA books set in the 80s or 90s is the nostalgia factor. Sometimes, stories set in either decade feel more of a nostalgic journey for the author rather than a setting with a clear purpose. In this case, with its firm roots in a specific cultural movement, LET ME HEAR A RHYME could not be set in any other timeline and is intentional in every aspect of the setting. It is clearly written for a teen audience that did not grow up in the 90s and offers an excellent cultural representation of black teenhood in the 90s R&B era in Brooklyn. Many teens will find Jasmine's frustration over racism and sexism just as familiar in their own worlds now.
Ever since ALLEGEDLY, Jackson has been on my auto-buy authors list, and LET ME HEAR A RHYME proves once more how skilled her craft is.