Published by HarperTeen on February 12, 2019
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Young Adult
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ROSES ARE RED, VIOLETS ARE BLUE. IF YOU HURT US, WE’RE COMING FOR YOU.
Moxie meets Female of the Species in this powerful, thrilling, and deeply resonant novel about a secret society of girls who plot revenge on the men who hurt them.
The enigmatic Black Coats have been exacting vengeance on men who have hurt girls and women for years. The killer of Thea's cousin went free, and Thea has just received an invitation to join the Black Coats' balancings—acts of revenge meant to teach a lesson. Justice for Natalie has never felt so close.
But as the balancings escalate in brutality, Thea’s clear-cut mission begins to unravel and she must decide just how far she is willing to go for justice.
Because when the line between justice and revenge is paper thin, it’s hard not to get cut.
Trigger warnings: murder, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, grief and depression
I came across The Black Coats when I was browsing for my next audiobook on Audible. I didn’t read Colleen Oakes’ previous series so this was my first taste of her writing and storytelling… and I have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed by the plot development and character development.
This novel follows Thea, who was a former track star and sprinter but has been languishing since the murder of her cousin, Natalie. Until the day that she is recruited to the Black Coats, a society of female vigilantes who seek to exact justice and vengeance on men who hurt women. Her new position as part of the Black Coats gives her a new purpose in life and she finds herself training hard with a group of other teenage girls, and eventually becoming the leader of her own team. Together, they go out and perform ‘balancings’ on men who have wronged women, performing Code Warnings, where men are warned to stop their behaviour without the use of violence, and Code Evenings, where violence is involved. Thea, however, soon realises that the Black Coats are not what they seem to be and she might be involved in something more dangerous than she had signed up for.
I thought that the concept of the book had promise, though I’m never really comfortable with the idea of teenage vigilantes. But what really let the book down was the lack of plot development and kind of… plot structure. There were lots of things that were skipped over, such as the training that the girls went through. They went from being just normal teenage girls with one strength or ability (in Thea’s case, it was her speed) to, five minutes later, being equipped with skills in fighting, unloading guns, leaping out windows, etc. I really had to suspend my disbelief here. For half of the book, the girls were just carrying out balancings with various men and there didn’t seem to really be any plot holding the book together. The plot didn’t really start for me until beyond the halfway mark and by that point it seemed a bit forced and everything happened a bit too quickly. I did enjoy the excitement and intensity at the end of the book, but it all seemed a bit manic and super unrealistic to me… like is this really happening to a bunch of teenage girls in contemporary Austin, Texas?
The characterisation also fell really flat for me. We didn’t really get to know any of the characters because there was hardly any development at all. Despite Thea being the main character of the book, we really didn’t know anything about her besides her yearning for revenge for her cousin and that she’s African American. She develops strong relationships with the other Black Coats in her team but, again, we had to take the author at her word because none of this was shown. The girls go from bickering with each other and mistrusting each other, to suddenly becoming as close knit as a family. We know nothing about the girls besides their grief and anger for what happened to them, and by the end of the book, we still know nothing about them. There was nothing distinctive and special about any of the characters and the dialogue didn’t set them apart either. Having said that, I did listen to this on audiobook and perhaps the narrator was partly to blame for the sameness in how the dialogue came across.
There are some villains and morally grey characters in this book, but it was difficult to tell what each person’s motive was and why they behaved in particular ways. I couldn’t really tell where allegiances lay, and I kind of just went through the entire book suspending my disbelief. I think it’s all good and fine to have things happen that I don’t believe in, but the way that the book was written, I’m not entirely sure that the author believed in it either.
The Black Coats was a captivating plot that drew me in, but there were some major flaws that prevented me from enjoying the book as much as I would have liked. The character and plot development was very weak and it was disappointing that there wasn’t enough attention paid to these elements that could make or break a book.
Rating: 3 out of 5