Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I’m a reformed book snob, who used to believe adults shouldn’t read YA (young adult). Then I delved into the world of authors Tiffany D. Jackson, Elizabeth Acevedo, Ben Philippe, Dhonielle Clayton, to name a few. These young adult characters experience stress and drama on a level that keeps this grown adult invested in the storylines.
Love Radio is Ebony LaDelle’s debut novel. Not only is it YA, but it’s a love story about teenagers Prince Jones and Danielle (Dani) Ford. I started following LaDelle on Instagram after seeing her speak on a YA panel at the 2019 Well-Read Black Girl festival, which also featured some of the aforementioned writers. Her credentials include book marketing and co-hosting a book club called Why Not YA?
When LaDelle started posting about finishing a manuscript, cover reveal, release and tour dates, I was in. The novel gave me Love Jones vibes. I attended the June 1, 2022, Brooklyn book tour stop at St. Ann & the Holy Trinity Church. The event ticket included a copy of the book and was moderated by H.K. Choi. Book signing followed the Q&A session, where I snagged an autograph and a (masked) pic.
I couldn’t wait to read the novel as they discussed LaDelle setting the book in her hometown of Detroit and giving Dani dreams of becoming a famous writer. She admires and studies the greats: Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison, but even that’s not enough to combat her trauma-induced writer’s block to finish her college essay to move to New York for college. LaDelle herself has been a marketing director at major New York publishing houses.
Despite new-ish ongoing debates about Darius in Love Jones and Quincy in Love & Basketball exhibiting toxic masculinity, they’re still two of my favorite Black romance movies from back in the day. They debuted when a young me (not quite Prince and Dani) was in my early twenties. Damn if they didn’t make an impression on me. I had stars in my eyes that I would find The One and even settle into a dream job/career when I moved to a new city, Everything would work out despite bumps in the road…
Anyway, I digress. Despite main characters Prince and Dani being teenagers decades after those movies, the two know their pop culture history when it comes to music, books and movies. Prince, wise beyond his seventeen years, doles out love advice on a local Detroit hip-hop radio show, called…what else? Love Radio.
His maturity stems from being caretaker of his single mom, stricken with MS, and his younger brother. Helping his mother with average tasks is how he gets his in with Dani, his longtime crush. Laser-focused on her studies and traumatized from an event that she hasn’t shared with anyone, she’s closed off, even to her closest friends. When Prince gets her to agree to a date, she tries to cancel using unbraiding her hair extensions as an excuse. Without missing a beat, Prince offers to help. Le swoon.
Prince, an aspiring DJ beyond local radio, is determined to woo Dani into a relationship. He accepts her challenge of having to do so with three dates. It’s reminiscent of Monica playing Quincy one-on-one in basketball for his heart in Love & Basketball.
My repeatedly mentioning these films isn’t a stretch. LaDelle mentioned them during the book talk on the tour. Her website also lists them as two of the movies to watch while reading Love Radio. There’s also a book list and playlist. They all bring back nostalgia.
While I’m the same generation as Prince and Dani’s parents, I couldn’t help but be invested in the teens’ separate and combined journeys. The two kept me company as I enjoyed a Sher Date of Sunday Brunch with a Book at Chez Oskar in Brooklyn. I walked home tipsy.
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As usual, you continue to write lively reviews (which as a genre can sometimes have about as much life as the obituaries). And maybe I should’ve walked home tipsy too because then I wouldn’t have embarrassed myself on the Q110 bus, trying to say hello to your doppelgänger.