I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Off the Record by Camryn Garrett
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers, Random House Children's Books on 2021
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult Fiction
Format: ARC, eBook
Student Journalism and #MeToo in Off the Record
I LOVED THIS BOOK! It took me a while to write this review, because I really just wanted to repeat those words over and over again. This book kept me up til midnight several nights in a row as I tried to finish it. The writing was so good! It kept me in the story the entire time. As a former journalist and journalism teacher, I will champion this book for teenagers, both journalist and non-journalist.
Josie Wright is a 17-year-old bisexual, black girl who deals with an anxiety disorder, self-identifies as fat and is a kick-ass teen investigative journalist. Her writing is what anchors her as she struggles with self-confidence and managing her anxiety. She challenges herself as a writer and pushes beyond the high school newspaper to freelance for larger publications. When she wins a contest to write a celebrity profile for Deep Focus magazine she gets to go on a whirlwind press tour.
With her annoying big sister as her chaperone, Josie jumps into a world that feels both exhilarating and overwhelming. She meets her celebrity profile subject, Marius Canet and the intrigue of romance mixed with some quality journalism in the air. But Josie is taken by surprise when another cast member, Penny, approaches her with an open Hollywood secret. Penny’s sharing of her story triggers a chain of events that brings other women with similar and more egregious experiences out of the woodworks as they share their stories of sexual assault and sexual abuse by a famous director.
Two big things stood out to me in this book: awareness and intersectionality. Garrett folds both into the character of Josie beautifully. Josie’s awareness as a teenage character is what makes her such a great journalist. There are various moments: her questioning of Black Joy versus Black Pain in movies winning awards; being followed around the store with her sisters; thinking about what her white readers will and will not care about in her articles. Those are just a few from the beginning of the book. The character of Josei is super insightful and that is why she is so good at asking questions, like the one she first asks Marius. I felt that one of the key moments in the story came when she takes a step back and looks at her story to realize that she had only represented rich, white women and not any women of color. That was a huge deal for her to have the skill to do that as a young journalist with no editor to help her through that story.
“It’s just weird. Like, they all know each other and have talked about what’s happened with each other and everything. But they didn’t notice the same thing happening to women of color?”Josie
The other thing I love about Josie is her intersectionality. She embraces all the parts of her identity and there isn’t a lopsided focus on any portion of it. She is all of the identities that were mentioned earlier and they all connect cohesively to who she is as a character. Her character is complex and rich. She is a survivor, struggles with anxiety and is insecure about her weight and body image; but she is also a confident writer and assertive journalist and an annoying little sister. Now that relationship between her and her sister Alice felt so genuine. At times I wanted to pluck both of them. 🤣
Hot Cocoa Moment
Also, last not but not least…I straight sat up and fist pumped for the ending! All I will say is Black girls deserve that kind of ending.
Would I Read it Again: Yes, and I am looking forward to reading Camryn Garrett’s other book Full Disclosure too.
Recommendations: This is a solid young adult novel. There are a litany of things that will hook you in as a reader. The exploration of intersectionality within identity, the #metoo movement and awareness are strong and warrant it being brought into the classroom. I wish I had this when I was teaching Journalism, because I would have gifted it to each of my editors. There is a lot of quality discussion that can come from this book.
Triggers: Sexual Assault, Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment, Anxiety Disorder
Thank you to NetGalley and Alfred A Knopf for providing this digital arc in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.