New Review from Booklist

You wouldn’t expect Richeboux Branscomb, a white teenager, and Acee Waites, a black cook, to cross paths very often in 1962 Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Richeboux and his fellow high-school friends occasionally crowd the Red Elephant Grill, wolfing down cheeseburgers with no regard for the man behind the grill. After eating at the Grill one summer night, Richeboux and his friends pile into a ’55 Ford and decide to take a joyride through Cherrytown, Tuscaloosa’s still-segregated black neighborhood, armed with eggs. When a late-night prank results in a fatality, touching off a chain of events that forces Richeboux and Acee to become better acquainted, both young men recognize each others’ aspirations, dreams, anger, and pain. A story of racial tension, upward mobility, and inner strength, Bennett’s Leaving Tuscaloosa is a compelling and all-consuming story. Richeboux, Acee, and other members of the community are expertly drawn characters with clear motives, set against a sweltering Alabama backdrop. Bennett has a fine ear for dialogue, seamlessly switching between Richeboux’s and Acee’s speaking patterns. Darker than Kathryn Stockett’s The Help (2009), Leaving Tuscaloosa is a haunting read.— Stephanie Turza