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Review: 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter

July 25, 2011

Title: 32 Candles
Author: Carter, Ernessa T.
Length: 338 pages
Genre: Fiction, General
Publisher / Year: Amistad / 2010
Source: For review from TLC Book Tours.
Rating: 4.5/5
Why I Read It: I’m not going to lie, it seems every blog promoting African American lit has been praising this one. I just had to know more!
Date Read: 12/07/11

Davie Jones doesn’t know who her father is but according to town gossip it could be any man in town. Davie’s mother, who is mean and both verbally and physically abusive, is a prostitute around town and has taken home many of the husbands in the town. After a beating from her mother Davie has been voluntarily mute for years, which makes it easier for her to be ignored a lot of this time. Both these facts and her looks (Davie has never been accused of being pretty) make her life terrible and she can’t wait until life improves – she is waiting for her Molly Ringwald ending and has been since she first say Sixteen Candles.

When her moment comes, however, things don’t turn out quite as planned. Davie realizes that things always can get worse and that there is no way she will put up with any more – instead she runs off to L.A. to make her own life. And Davie is successful, she grows into her natural beauty and her fantastic voice helps her become a successful lounge singer. She makes new friends and family, and life is going well… until people from her past run into her and possibly ruin it all.

This book was absolutely fantastic, I picked it up and stayed up until way too late (or early in the morning rather) to read it because I just had to know what happens. Although I’m a cynic I still love me the occasional love story and this book was just that – plucky heroine who makes her own life despite all the odds and then has to struggle to get what she wants in the face of new adversities, deciding if love is worth it and learning how to act.

Carter has written a fantastic cast of characters who, I felt, were all well-written and fully fleshed out. Even the more minor characters or those characters that we feel we should be able to hate, we see new sides of in the end. The voices of the characters also rang true and throughout the story as the characters grew and changed I felt like I was along for their journey. Their changes felt real and I never doubted the things that they did. One other point on the characters in the book – Carter also includes a few gay characters who are both entirely believable in L.A. show business and were included without any homophobia cropping up. I appreciated this inclusion.

Another thing that Carter does in this book is discuss the class system in America. Although Davie lives in an all black neighborhood, there is still divisions among the students in terms of class. When the Farrell’s move in they rule the school because they have money in a way that no one else in the town does. Later on in the story we see class come up again when Davie sets rules in her relationship, refusing expensive gifts and payment for things. I loved that Davie was so strong and unwilling to sell out in a way that she wasn’t comfortable with.

Which leaves me to my next point – what I loved most about the book was Davie as a character. Davie was strong, independent, and resourceful. She may not have always been nice or perfect but really, how many of us are? I loved how Davie stood up for herself through the story in so many ways, and I especially liked the Between Then and Now chapter of the book (evil giggle). But Davie not only stuck up for herself in the worst ways, she also knew what she had to do and worked toward getting it done.

Definitely a well written and engaging book that I would recommend to anyone who likes contemporary novels and who likes Molly Ringwald or other similar movies. Really, do give this a read! Sure it’s a bit syrupy and just-too-perfect-to-be-believable, but that is what makes it so fun!

Other TLC Tour Stops:

Monday, July 4th: Reflections of a Bookaholic
Thursday, July 7th: Picky Girl
Friday, July 8th: Book Reviews by Molly
Monday, July 11th: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, July 12th: StephTheBookworm
Wednesday, July 13th: 1330v
Thursday, July 14th: The Englishist
Friday, July 15th: The Englishist – guest post
Monday, July 18th: Steph Su Reads
Tuesday, July 19th: Freda’s Voice
Wednesday, July 20th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Thursday, July 21st: Reading Through Life
Friday, July 22nd: Dreaming in Books
Monday, July 25th: Amy Reads
Tuesday, July 26th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Wednesday, July 27th: Bibliophilia – Maggie’s Bookshelf
Thursday, July 28th: Life In Review
Thursday, July 28th: Seaside Book Nook
Friday, July 29th: Love to Read for Fun
Friday, July 29th: Write Meg

42 Comments leave one →
  1. July 25, 2011 11:09 am

    This book is on sale for the Kindle right now, and though I passed it up before, I think I am going to go back and grab it now. It sounds like a perfect fit for me, and I love that the characters are fleshed out and realistic. Thanks for opening my eyes to this book. It sounds great!

    • July 26, 2011 10:15 am

      Thanks for the heads up about it being on sale for the Kindle!

    • August 12, 2011 1:43 pm

      Thanks for the heads up about the sale zibilee! Definitely worth buying :D

  2. July 25, 2011 12:20 pm

    This sounds pretty good. I will have to see about getting a copy.

  3. July 25, 2011 1:23 pm

    This book looks nice, Amy! Thanks for writing about it! I will add it to my ‘TBR’ list. I love the cover :)

  4. July 25, 2011 2:20 pm

    I’m so glad that you enjoyed this book! It’s a nice favorite of mine.

  5. July 25, 2011 3:44 pm

    Oh no, I missed all the hype, again! But if you praise it, it has to be justified hype :)

  6. July 25, 2011 9:00 pm

    Wow, this sounds really impressive! Great review- I’d never heard of the book before, so glad you brought it to my attention.

    • August 12, 2011 1:46 pm

      Thanks Aarti, I’m glad I could bring it to your attention.

  7. July 25, 2011 10:05 pm

    Sounds like an interesting ‘feel good’ book. And my book list increases by one.

  8. July 26, 2011 12:05 am

    I’m glad to see that you enjoyed this one Amy. It didn’t seem like your usual fare, but it does look like a great book!

    Thanks for being on the tour.

    • August 12, 2011 1:48 pm

      Thanks Heather, I’m glad I gave it a chance. Definitely not something I’d pick up randomly on my own but now I’m on a hunt for more books like it because I enjoyed it so much.

  9. July 26, 2011 12:07 am

    Amy, thanks for that amazing review. I’m a cynic with a soft spot for the occasional love stories as well, so it really meant a lot to me that you liked it.

    • August 12, 2011 1:49 pm

      Thank you so much for the visit and the comment Ernessa. And thank you for writing such a great book! I think Davie showed enough cynicism that it just worked for me. I look forward to future books :)

  10. July 26, 2011 5:36 am

    Oh Amy, if everyone else loves it and you too I should get it. Nothing like a happy ending!

    • August 12, 2011 1:50 pm

      Yes, they are good to read every so often aren’t they Sarah!

  11. July 26, 2011 8:05 am

    Interesting review. I guess it’s one of those fantastic books.

  12. July 26, 2011 10:19 am

    Amy, great review! Makes me want to read this ASAP! I’ll admit that I was initially intrigued because its called 32 Candles and I’m 32, plus I love the movie Sixteen Candles – so, those two things alone would have probably got me to read the book. However, I had heard some great things about this book and after reading your thoughts on it, well that sealed the deal for me. This is definitely a book I want to read NOW! I love the idea of reading this and rooting for a character that is flawed – can’t wait!

    • August 12, 2011 1:50 pm

      Yep, sounds like you’ll definitely enjoy the book Nadia :D

  13. Connie Ballour permalink
    July 26, 2011 10:50 am

    I absolutely loved this book. I read and immediately wanted 2 read it again. I passed it on to my 17 year old daughter, who also loves a good book, because I believe all young black girls can appreciate this story! I really hope to see it as a movie soon!

    • August 12, 2011 1:51 pm

      So glad you enjoyed it so much Connie. I think it’s definitely a great book for black girls and I really hope it gets made into a movie.

  14. July 26, 2011 11:19 am

    I’ve been wanting to read this one! This doesn’t seem like the type of book you typically read – but if you are gushing about it as well, it must be good! Ok, it just climbed to a higher spot on my TBR now.

    • August 12, 2011 1:51 pm

      Not my typical read but definitely great – I hope you love it Wallace.

  15. July 27, 2011 9:56 am

    Sounds like an interesting read. Thanks for sharing, Amy.

  16. July 31, 2011 2:01 pm

    hmmm, this sounds like a must borrow in the future book!

    • August 12, 2011 1:52 pm

      I think you definitely should Rhiannon :) It’s on the shelf above my bed if you want to snag it!

  17. August 2, 2011 6:45 pm

    I picked up this book when it first hit my library a few months ago and read the first few chapters; I found it to be quite engaging. I haven’t gone back to it, but this review has me rethinking that decision. I may need to cheat on my current challenge….

    • August 12, 2011 1:53 pm

      I think the book is definitely worth cheating for MissBwalya ;) I’ll be watching for your thoughts on it!

  18. August 3, 2011 12:43 am

    I love books that have a strong cast of characters. And it sounds like this book definitely has that. And lets face it, we all need something a bit sweet and syrupy sometimes! I know I certainly do.

  19. August 3, 2011 1:29 pm

    Goes to show; I’ve been living under a rock and have failed to hear about this book. Thanks Amy.


  1. Ernessa Carter, author of 32 Candles, on tour July/August 2011 | TLC Book Tours
  2. Life in Review: “32 Candles” by Ernessa T. Carter « Life In Review
  3. July Reading Wrap-Up « Amy Reads

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