We Deserve Monuments by Jas HammondsWe Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds is a YA novel set in the Deep South where racism still lurks in a gentrified small town.

Avery Anderson’s life is thrown into disarray when she and her parents relocate from Washington DC to Bardell, Georgia to look after her maternal grandmother who’s in the last stages of cancer. In DC, Avery had it all figured out. She and her two best friends were going to finish their last year of high school and secure their acceptances to elite colleges. But that was before she knew that her grandmother was dying; a grandmother she barely remembered, and grandmother nobody talked about.

Bardell isn’t like anywhere Avery’s ever been. There are two small high schools in town – the public high school and the private academy founded by one of the town’s many racist forefathers. Avery is one of only two Black students at Beckwith Academy. She’s quickly adopted by two best friends: Simone Cole, the other Black student at school and Jade Oliver a descendent of one of Bardell’s oldest families. Avery quickly falls into an easy friendship with them.

She wishes the same could be true about her grandmother. Mama Letty isn’t an easy woman to get to know, let alone love. There’s a tension between her mother and grandmother that’s like a fifth person living in the unkept, cluttered old house. It’s clear there’s a lot of drama both women are refusing to address. Avery’s relationship with her mother is very close, but when it comes to her mother’s childhood, she realizes she knows very little. Every time she tries to engage with Mama Letty, she’s dismissed by the grumpy old woman.

Avery becomes obsessed with finding out the secrets that split her family in two. Simone and Jade are able to shed some light on Mama Letty’s past, but it isn’t until Mama Letty begins opening up to Avery that she’s able to start piecing together a family history shaped by the town’s racist history.

Avery and Simone’s friendship blossoms into romance. In a town like Bardell, two girls in love is an afront to decency. Two Black girls in love is dangerous.

As Avery gets closer and closer to uncovering the insidious past that’s held power over the women in her family, she must decide if uncovering the truth is worth destroying the sensitive relationships she’s forming in Bardell.

Pros And My Favourite Parts

We Deserve Monuments is ridiculously well written. (So many spoilers I’ve got to maneuver around.) Hammonds masterfully tells the story of a young woman on the verge of self-discovery within a novel about generational trauma and racism. Throughout the book, Avery recognizes she’s not the girl she once was. She’s gathering family truths that will shape who she’ll become. The relationship between the three generations of women is fraught with tension. Every time they seem to be growing closer, lies of omission from the past wreck their progress. The story is written in first person from Avery’s point of view. In between chapters there are small vignettes about the past told by an all-seeing narrator in third person. I loved this device. At first, I was thrown off, but I quickly realized they were little morsels of information that helped layout and explain the mystery at the heart of the story. The most compelling part of the book is the relationship between Avery and her grandmother. It’s slow going, but underneath Mama Letty’s gruff and sometimes cruel exterior is a woman who wants to be known and understood.

Cons And Heads Up


The Conclusion

victorias favourite booksOoh, I loved this book. There were all sorts of layers to peel back – the urgency of the present mixed with the daunting truths and lies of the past. We Deserve Monuments isn’t easy to read at times, but it’s oh so satisfying. Hammonds balances the rollercoaster of emotions that encapsules high school with a family reckoning that’s been decades overdue. This is their debut novel, and I’m already a devoted reader.

Excerpt from We Deserve Monuments by Jas Hammonds

Grief cracked open in the pit of my stomach when I realized how self-absorbed I’d been since arriving in Bardell, maybe even before then. So what if Mama Letty was grumpy? Who wouldn’t be after so many years alone? We had everything we needed now to become a whole, complete family—time, proximity, bodies hugging the dinner table every night.

But that wasn’t enough. If I was going to get to know Mama Letty, I was going to have to be the one to crack through her prickly exterior. She had to shed her loneliness, one layer at a time. Maybe I would be perfect for the job since I was dealing with my own version of loneliness after my breakup.

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Bits and Bobs

ISBN number: 9781250816559

Publisher: Roaring Books Press

Jas Hammonds Online

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