When I heard that there was another Brandy Colbert book coming out, I was like, "I'M GAME. LET'S DO THIS." Brandy brings the perfect balance of diversity, romance, and real life to her books. It's no surprise that Little & Lion won the Stonewall Book Award and that readers everywhere are falling in love with Finding Yvonne. Well, Brandy did it again with The Revolution of Birdie Randolph, a novel about first love and family secrets, perfect for fans of Nina LaCour and Nicola Yoon. Without further ado (because I can go on about this forever), here's a little teaser...
A strange woman is smoking on my front stoop.
Actually, it’s the stoop of my mother’s hair salon. We live in the apartment upstairs. But my mom and Ayanna make their clients go down the street to smoke—none of them would ever sit right here in front of the door.
Maybe she just needs a place to sit. This is Chicago. We’re in Logan Square, near the California Blue Line stop—people are walking by constantly.
She takes a drag just as she notices me standing a few feet away, watching her. She exhales and smiles and lifts her hand in greeting. I give her a tight smile—this is Chicago—and quickly squeeze past her on the stoop, shutting the door to our stairway firmly behind me.
I’m in the kitchen getting a drink of water when I hear footsteps on the stairs and, a few moments later, the front door opening. It’s too early for my father to be home. I guess Mom needed to run up for something.
I freeze. That’s not my mother. How could I have forgotten to lock the front door?
And then I turn around and see the woman from the stoop standing in the doorway, and I drop my glass. It shatters at my feet. Water splashes over my ankles and the tops of my school loafers. I back up, pressing myself against the kitchen sink. I don’t look at it, but I’m very aware that my hand is within reach of the knife block.
“Oh.” She takes in my frightened face. Holds up her hands. “It’s okay. You’re Dove, right? I’m Carlene.”
I stare at her, wondering if my mother would be able to hear me scream downstairs over the music and blow-dryers and incessant chatter of the shop. How does this woman know my name?
“I’m your aunt.”
I frown and then my mouth drops open as I remember that my mother has a sister. She’s her only sibling, and I haven’t seen her in so long I’d forgotten I have an aunt on that side. Mom doesn’t talk about her much. Never, really.
She smiles, and I wonder if I’ll see my mother in it, but I don’t. Thick, black Marley twists hang past my aunt’s shoulders. Her eyes are tired but friendly. “Remember me?”
Her smile fades a little. “Well, it’s been a long time. You’ve grown so much,” she says almost wondrously, her eyes roaming over me as if she’s trying to match the Dove she used to know with the one standing in front of her.
I want to ask her exactly how long it’s been, but something in her eyes tells me not to. Instead, I say, “I’m sixteen. I only have two more days left of sophomore year.”
My hands are still clenched into fists, even though I’m pretty sure she is who she says she is.
“I know.” She takes a couple of steps forward so she’s standing fully in the kitchen. The cigarette smoke clings to her clothes or her fingers or maybe both, and it’s not a good smell, but I try to pretend like it doesn’t bother me. “Seventeen next February, right?”
“Right.” I smile back at her, but I’m surprised she remembers. I didn’t think she knew any more about me than I know about her, which is pretty much nothing. “Are you visiting for a while?”
“I am.” She pauses then says, “I don’t know how long. But I’m hoping your mother will let me work in the salon while I’m here.”
“You know how to do hair?”
“Girl, who do you think taught your mama?”
Just then, I hear feet on the stairs again: thundering up. The front door bursts open and then my mother’s voice: “Birdie?”
“Birdie?” my aunt echoes.
“We’re in the kitchen,” I call back. Then, to Aunt Carlene, “That’s her nickname for me. You know…a play on the whole Dove thing.”
Mom stops abruptly in the doorway.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, staring at the worry lines etched into her forehead.
“Nothing.” She lets out a long breath as she looks back and forth between us. “I was just—it’s been a while since you’ve seen Carlene, so I wanted to make sure everything is okay.” Then she spies the broken glass in front of my feet. “What happened?”
“I wasn’t expecting anyone to come in and…I got freaked out.”
Mom presses her lips together as she heads across the room to grab the broom and dustpan. “I wanted to let you know before you got home, but Carlene showed up unannounced in the middle of an appointment. I couldn’t get away.”
“It’s a broken glass,” Aunt Carlene says, raising an eyebrow. “Nobody died.”
She tries to take the broom from my mother, but Mom shakes her head and motions for me to get out of the way as she sweeps up the wet shards.
I don’t think they’ve seen each other in years, either, but they don’t look so happy to be reunited. They’re not close; maybe my aunt doesn’t know her well enough to understand how much Mom values planning and order.
“Don’t walk barefoot in here for a while,” my mother says after crouching to make sure she’s gotten every piece that she can see. She tosses the broken glass into the trash can and leans the broom against the wall. She looks at Aunt Carlene. “I also wanted to make sure you’re settling in okay. Should I have Raymond stop anywhere on the way home?”
“I’m settling in just fine. I don’t need anything,” Aunt Carlene says. “I’m actually going to lie down for a while—I had a long day on the train.”
My mother’s lips are still pursed, but some of the tension leaves her body. “We’ll wake you for dinner.”
“Wake me up in time to help,” my aunt says over her shoulder.
I get a fresh glass from the cupboard and pour more water, then sit down at the kitchen table. Once the door to Mimi’s room clicks closed, Mom joins me.
She sighs, running a hand over her twistout. “I didn’t know she was coming.”
“Yeah, I kind of gathered that.” I watch her. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, I’m fine, Birdie. Just tired.” She pats my hand. “You okay with her staying here for a while?”
“Sure.” I shrug. “I don’t remember her at all, but she seems okay. And Mimi’s not coming home this summer, right?”
“Right. Okay. Good.” Mom smiles.
“She’s going to work in the shop?”
“We could use another braider, but she has to be licensed, and that takes a lot of hours. I don’t know if she’ll be here that long.”
“She said she taught you everything you know about hair.”
Mom’s face drops so fast it makes me laugh. “Oh, she did? We’ll see how much she remembers after—”
“What?” I prompt her.
She shakes her head. “Nothing. She’s just been out of the game for a while.”
“Are you okay with her being here?”
“Carlene is family,” she says in a voice that doesn’t match her face. “Of course I am.”
Dove "Birdie" Randolph works hard to be the perfect daughter and follow the path her parents have laid out for her: She quit playing her beloved soccer, she keeps her nose buried in textbooks, and she's on track to finish high school at the top of her class. But then Birdie falls hard for Booker, a sweet boy with a troubled past...whom she knows her parents will never approve of.
When her estranged aunt Carlene returns to Chicago and moves into the family's apartment above their hair salon, Birdie notices the tension building at home. Carlene is sweet, friendly, and open-minded—she's also spent decades in and out of treatment facilities for addiction. As Birdie becomes closer to both Booker and Carlene, she yearns to spread her wings. But when long-buried secrets rise to the surface, everything she's known to be true is turned upside down.