All along I’ve thought, no matter what it takes, I’m going to make sure no one so much as sneezes the pollen off a single bee on that farm. It’s like I needed to fight for them the way nobody but Miles ever fought for me. But through all that, I think maybe I missed the fact that I am losing pieces of myself in order to protect pieces of myself. How much of that is worth it? I feel like, no matter what I decide, I am never going to be whole. I am, right now, shaking so hard that pieces of me are falling off, moment by moment. There is no real fixing or repairing. Only choosing. There is only choosing.– By Any Means Necessary
Summary and Thoughts
On the day Torrey officially becomes a college freshman, he gets a call that might force him to drop out before he’s even made it through orientation: the bee farm his beloved uncle Miles left him after his tragic death is being foreclosed on.
Torrey would love nothing more than to leave behind the family and neighborhood that’s bleeding him dry. But he still feels compelled to care for the project of his uncle’s heart. As the farm heads for auction, Torrey precariously balances choosing a major and texting Gabriel—the first boy he ever kissed—with the fight to stop his uncle’s legacy from being demolished. But as notice letters pile up and lawyers appear at his dorm, dividing himself between family and future becomes impossible unless he sacrifices a part of himself.
Man, I really wanted to like this book. As the group book for Latinxathon, By Any Means Necessary tells a character-driven story following a black college freshman wrestle with losing his bee apiary as his hometown is gentrified, all while pursuing a blossoming romance. I really appreciated the care and love Montgomery has for her characters and the diverse representation she provides in this tale. Unfortunately though, this book really didn’t work for me. Not a bad book, but not my jam. Some reasons why:
- The characters lacked depth and their backstories were quite sparse
- There were a lot of emotional narratives that were left unexamined, such as Torrey’s various traumatic relationships with his family, his history with Gabriel, his relationships with the friend group CAKE, and a more through emotional deep dive into how he maintains his bee apiary
- There’s A LOT of explaining concepts, language, and the oppressive systems/processes black people endure. I would rather the author just wrote without all the explaining (felt very tell > show). Doing otherwise feels like she’s abruptly and awkwardly pausing and restarting scenes each time she stops to define AAVE to the reader.
- The romance felt kinda insta-lovey. I wanted to see both characters grow and reveal their unique individual traits.
- The tone of the book is very conversational, which is fine, but combined with the above statements, it almost felt like a long run-on sentence.
The book was easy to read through, but I doubt it will be a memorable read for me and I would advise others to consider their own reading tastes before picking up this YA contemporary novel.
For Those Who Enjoyed
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
- The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta
- The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
- Furia by Yamile Saied Mendez