Hell of a Book is a novel about, well, it’s a novel about an author on a book tour for his new book, which everyone agrees is a hell of a book, but he’s not quite sure what it’s about or if all the people are real. Only he can see The Kid, a Black boy who might be the one recently shot by the police, or might not be, but as the interviews pile up and he sees The Kid more and more, maybe he’ll have to work out just which stories are being told.
This is a difficult book to talk about without giving away too much, as a lot of it is built around narrative uncertainty and what the narrator says or doesn’t say at any one point. It’s an innovative style which is used to play with the reader whilst also addressing issues of race, police brutality, and which stories Black creatives are encouraged to tell (or told is marketable). At times it is absurd and funny, at other times unreal and clever, and then it is also powerful and sad, a sign of how stories keep repeating and cycles keep being perpetuated.
The style of this book might not be for everyone, but I found it incisive and witty, and a clever way to ask questions about the publishing industry itself whilst also looking at existing in America whilst Black. I’m not going to end my review with an obvious play on the title, but instead I’ll think about the fact that the way the title is used throughout the book does feel like a comment on how it might be described by people who haven’t really read it in the future, as it is undoubtedly a book that is going to be talked about.