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The Black Coats

Review

The Black Coats

Colleen Oakes, who has written fantastical retellings of well-known stories like PETER PAN and ALICE IN WONDERLAND, has finally written an original young adult thriller, titled THE BLACK COATS. Staying true to her previous works, Oakes again writes about strong women protagonists and corrupt governments/institutions.

Thea’s grief over the murder of her cousin/best friend Natalie has dominated the past few months of her life. And it doesn’t help that her murderer seems to be getting off scot-free. So, when she receives an invitation to join a secret society called the Black Coats that avenges female victims of assault, she passionately accepts. She is quickly sent into training with other like-minded fierce young ladies to become an unlikely team. They begin to carry out Balancings, distributions of revenge that end in blackmail, injury and/or fear. Their goal is to make sure these offenders never hurt another woman again.

As she waits for her Inheritance (a Balancing for the person of her choice), Thea delves into the Black Coats headfirst, thrown into the crazy politics of the society. She must constantly prove herself as the leader of a newly formed group. When her love life and professional life collide, she uncovers secrets of the society’s morally gray systems. As Thea learns more about the origins of the society and its now-altered goal, she starts to wonder if she’s part of the good guys or the bad guys.

"Oakes’ writing style is sharp....consistently fast-paced....Oakes makes each girl’s story unique and equally heartbreaking. "

Oakes’ writing style is sharp. Throughout the book, the writing was consistently fast-paced enough to keep me interested. Oakes doesn’t waste pages on description, but she still manages to describe each scene well. I was able to visualize many of the book’s settings. In addition, the human relationships that Oakes describes all feel very realistic. Her dialogue is very natural and she writes in small ordinary actions to make each character more personable. I love how Oakes creates the dynamic of Thea’s team. She makes it a slow burn friendship, filled with cute quirky moments and also darker, more intense ones. Though I would’ve liked more insight into each girl’s background, I admire how each girl gets a chance to tell their own personal trauma within the book. Oakes makes each girl’s story unique and equally heartbreaking.

Thea and her romance with Drew is also a well-written plot line. Their meet-cute is such an awkward situation, but it was funny and heartwarming to read. I like how their relationship builds throughout the book. Their relationship is tested multiple times, and in very different ways, but they always deal with their problems in a typical teenage way. I respect how Oakes wrote about a girl who prioritized her work over a boy.

In general, the book is filled with exposing of secrets. Oakes inserts subtle foreshadowing of dark secrets that later leads to dramatic reveals. There are twists that I didn't see coming, but looking back I realized how it was alluded to in previous moments. Lastly, the ending doesn’t tie everything up in a nice bow. I like that because it would seem phony if everything returned to normal. However, it does not leave any cliffhangers and it is an ending that left me satisfied.

This book is perfect for a thrilling read in a single sit down. For victims of assault, this may be a trigger, but it also seems like a cathartic book as well. I would recommend this to anyone who realizes morality is a gray blob, because what is just is not always what is right. Those people can enjoy the internal struggle in this book and relate to it best. This is a great book for thrill-seeking readers who know that right and wrong is never black and white.

Reviewed by Alison L., Teen Board Member on February 27, 2019

The Black Coats
by Colleen Oakes