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LAMAR GILES – “Trapping people in stories since 1987…”

Posted about 3 months ago by Jennifer Deuell

There are very few things in life that I geek out about.  Meeting a very awesome author like Lamar Giles is one of them.  Giles is a two-time Edgar Award finalist, founding member of the We Need Diverse Books organization and an all-around fantastic guy.  I’ve been lucky enough to meet Giles twice!  Now, I’m so excited to share that he’ll be coming to the Main Library so you lovely people get to meet him too!!

On Saturday, January 25th from 2:00-3:30 pm, Giles will participate in a very special “in conversation” program with Newberry Award-winning author, and Richmond Times Dispatch’s 2019 Person of the Year, Meg Medina! (Cue total geek-out mode).  They’ll be chatting about Giles’ new book, Not So Pure and Simple.  This book is a bit of a departure from Giles’ normal work, but still oh so good!  More on that later…

In anticipation of Giles’ appearance here at the Library, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite books he’s written.


Overturned (2018), is set in the casinos of Las Vegas.  Imagine the lights, the glamour, the excitement that the setting holds.  Add to that Nikki Tate, a skilled teenage gambler who plays in high-stakes underground card games in order to win enough money to one day escape from Vegas.  You see, Nikki’s dad is a card shark too, only now he sits in prison convicted of murdering his best friend in a gamble gone wrong.  Over the years, Dad has maintained his innocence, so when his conviction is unexpectedly overturned, he ventures back into the Vegas underground to try and find the real murderer; however, in the process, he churns up danger not only for himself but for Nikki too.

This was such a fun read!  Not only was I totally drawn into the setting of the book, but the card games were thrilling and I fell in love with Nikki’s moxie.  I found myself rushing to get to the next page and consumed this one in one large gulp!

Spin (2019) is another fast-paced murder mystery.  This time, the story centers around Paris aka DJ ParSec, an overnight music sensation who throws exclusive popup parties and knows how to “turn up!” the best beats.  When frenemies Kya and Fuse find Paris murdered over her turntables, they’re willing to join forces to solve the murder.  Things get even more complicated when ParSec’s rogue fanbase “Dark Nation” becomes obsessed with solving her murder too, and will do anything to catch the killer (or killers)…think creepy masks, kidnapping, threats of bodily harm, and worse…

I really enjoyed the whole Dark Nation piece of this book.  It was super creepy to me that there is this underground cell of crazed super-fans who can ignite such anarchy upon the world…freaks. me. out!  I also loved that this book was all about female perseverance.  Kya and Fuse depend only on each other to get through this story.  They don’t need a man to resolve their issues.  They don’t need a knight in shining armor to whisk them away.  They’ve got this all on their own!  Good stuff.

Giles’ forthcoming book, Not So Pure and Simple, is, in my opinion, his best.  I was lucky to get my hands on an advanced reader copy (librarian perks) and read it over a quick trip to Florida.  It was a perfect vacation read, but not in the way you may think.  I don’t mean that it was light and fluffy and sunshine and lollipops.  What I do mean is that it was funny and engaging and left me with a lot to think about (all my favorite books do this).   It’s Giles’ first contemporary novel and is already receiving rave reviews.

Not So Pure and Simple is the story of Del.  Del has a longtime crush on Kiera.  So, when he sees Kiera volunteer for a church group, he doesn’t hesitate to volunteer too.  What Del doesn’t know is that he just signed up for a Purity Pledge.  Del is determined to take advantage of the opportunity and asks fellow pledger, Jameer, to help him get closer to Kiera.  In return, all Jameer asks is that Del serves as a secret correspondent for the group, getting taboo information from the school’s sex education class only Del is permitted to take.

As you can imagine, there are so many hilarious things that happen in this book.  Teens talking about sex ed and purity pledges sets the stage for quite the comedy.  I found myself laughing out loud for much of this read (gaining curious looks from Grandma and Grandpa in FL).  But this book is so much more than a comedy.  It is also a commentary on how men view their relationships with women.  It questions how these ideas get passed down from father to son.  It highlights how toxic masculinity is dangerous not just to women but to men too.  It begs the reader to examine their own attitudes and the attitudes of the people with which they surround themselves.  This book is so important because it doesn’t focus on the obvious examples of people behaving badly, but the more subtle ones.  The ones that we can easily excuse away or ignore…but we shouldn’t.

Needless to say, I think Lamar Giles is an amazing author.  I hope you’re as excited about his new book as I am and I can’t wait for you all to meet him.  The event is sure to be a great time full of laughs and (hopefully) introspection.  Hope to see you all there!

About the Author

Jenn Deuell is the Young Adult Coordinator with Richmond Public Library. She is a native of Fredericksburg, VA but has lived in Richmond for long enough that she now considers it home. She loves all things YA and can usually be found curled up at home with a good book (rainy day or not). Her other hobbies include traveling and spending time with family, including her three rescued pit bulls.

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