The energetic murder mystery takes second billing as Smith emphasizes Nate’s ambitions and his relationships with friends and coworkers. Self-conscious about his Korean heritage, his reading disability, and his postponed dreams of college, Nate confides in Spence Reeves, the theater’s Black custodian, who was once a Buffalo Soldier. Landlady Mrs. Roe, with whom Nate shares a love of literature, becomes a surrogate mother. When Nate is promoted to theater manager, Smith chooses to focus on Nate’s choices for his future and his pursuit of love interest Carrie Jenkins, leaving the investigation in the background.
Though racial tensions are present, Smith indulges in a bit of glossing-over; the descriptions and dialogue are genteel and never distressing. Readers will be enveloped by the warmth of Americana, the soul of Black musicians, and the savor of down-home Southern cooking. Film buffs will relish the movie trivia and film history as the anticipation of Jaws’ release builds. This is a sepia-tinted trip down memory lane that allows a young man of color to be an ordinary American dreamer.
Takeaway: Film buffs will enjoy following a young man’s coming of age in and around a movie theater in 1975 North Carolina.
Great for fans of Delia Owens’s Where the Crawdads Sing, Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower, John Green.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A-