Wednesday 2 March 2022

'Every Variable of Us' - the gritty YA debut from Charles A Bush ★★★★★

Every Variable of Us | Book banner for book review | Superior Young Adult Fiction

Authors often share their thoughts at the end of contemporary YA novels, explaining why the issues were important to them and the inspiration for their writing. It's interesting that Charles A Bush chose to share those thoughts at the beginning of Every Variable of Us. The reader knows, from the outset, to expect depictions of racism, homophobia, poverty and crime from the onset but they also understand why he wrote this novel.

Every Variable of Us is one of the most gritty novels I've read in years. It goes places The Hate U Give didn't dare to tread and explores the life of a severely underprivileged Philly teenager as she experiences the loss of her future and navigates her sexuality.

Alexis Duncan is a star basketball player on her way to a college scholarship. Rising above her mother's drug addiction and a life in and out of foster homes, Alexis is set to escape the confines of her upbringing and become a superstar. That is until she is shot in a gang shooting. Barely able to walk properly, Alexis needs to explore other options for college admission, and fast, before she becomes another statistic.

Alexis makes the shocking (to her) discovery that sports is not the only way to get college scholarships and she joins the school STEM team as a reserve. Has she got what it takes to go from jock to swot? More importantly, who is the enigmatic Aamani Chakrabarti and why is Alexis developing feelings for her?

I related on so many levels to this novel and it might help to explain why. I spent time in care and absolutely thought I had no future after school until I was made aware of the possibility of a scholarship to university which changed my life. The descriptions of poverty, neglect, parental drug abuse, the contradictory experience in care homes, and living on the street were especially authentic in Every Variable of Us and very well researched. The chaos that Alexis experienced on an every day basis is a chaos that is familiar to many children living in poverty.

Bush also explores life in gangs and the allure and often inevitability of gang membership amongst deprived teens. While Every Variable of Us is about Alexis and Aamani, it is also about Britt, Alexis's best friend who shared Alexis's past but not her future.

Every Variable of Us features a diverse range of characters including a Black sportsgirl protagonist, bisexual and gay teens, a Muslim girl and a neurodivergent boy. I appreciated seeing underprivileged teens on page as books often focus on unattainably privileged and wealthy teens.

Charles A Bush | Author of Every Variable of Us

It wasn't always easy to read Every Variable of Us and this is why Bush's foreword was especially well placed. With on-page racism and homophobia, including significant slurs, I had to stop and think whether these words were appropriate in this novel. I feel that the depictions were realistic and that characters displayed character growth in moving on from these positions, or moving on from those who continued to hold them.

I give Every Variable of Us a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of Angie Thomas, Jewell Parker Rhodes and Brandy Colbert. I cannot wait to see what Bush writes next.


Every Variable of Us is released by North Star Editions on 1 March 2022 and is available to purchase on Amazon (affiliate link; I will receive a small commission if you purchase using this link at no extra cost to you).

I received an electronic copy of this graphic novel from Netgalley. I will always provide an honest review, whether books are provided to me or purchased by me


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