Today’s review is a hard one to write, because I’m still not sure how I feel about this book. I didn’t not like it, but I’m not certain that I enjoyed it that much either. If you’ve read this, or Black Girl Unlimited by the same author, be sure to let me know your thoughts down below. Let’s jump into this.
About the book
Thanks to Hachette Audio for sending me an audiobook copy in exchange for an honest review.
Genre: Contemporary, magical realism, young adult.
Representation: Black protagonist and secondary characters, Asian secondary character, gay secondary character.
Content warning: Sexual abuse, racism, police brutality, trauma.
Summary: There are many watchers and they are always white. That’s the first thing Echo notices as she settles into Dartmouth College. Despite graduating high school in Cleveland as valedictorian, Echo immediately struggles to keep up in demanding classes. Dartmouth made many promises it couldn’t keep. The campus is not a rainbow-colored utopia where education lifts every voice. Nor is it a paradise of ideas, an incubator of inclusivity, or even an exciting dating scene. But it might be a portal to different dimensions of time and space—only accessible if Echo accepts her calling as a Chosen One and takes charge of her future by healing her past. This remarkable challenge demands vulnerability, humility, and the conviction to ask for help without sacrificing self-worth.
In mesmerizing personal narrative and magical realism, Echo Brown confronts mental illness, grief, racism, love, friendship, ambition, self-worth, and belonging as they steer the fates of first-generation college students on Dartmouth’s campus. The Chosen One is an unforgettable coming-of-age story that bravely unpacks the double-edged college transition—as both catalyst for old wounds and a fresh start.
The Chosen One has a very interesting premise of exploring the hurdles of a first-generation black student on an Ivy-League College. However, this was—for lack of a better word—extremely weird. I tend to not be the biggest fan of magical realism but here that wasn’t the main issue. The narration was very disjointed and hard to follow and the characters felt somewhat flat.
Despite this book dealing with many heavy topics and me liking the overall message of the story, what we got to see of the characters felt somewhat flat. Echo goes through many traumatic experiences and yet I didn’t really feel for her—to be completely honest I did cry once, but the rest of the time I just didn’t care. This, however, might be because of how the novel was constructed.
Like I mentioned, this was weird, which made it very hard to follow at times. It does make sense that we, the readers, can’t tell what’s real and what isn’t in the beginning because Echo herself can’t. However, it makes it hard to understand what exactly is going on which leads to just not caring that much. When we were reading about Echo’s daily life, that felt inconsequential, and whenever we were transported to the other plane I just didn’t know what was going on for half the novel.
I also didn’t care at all for Echo’s romantic interests as I felt they all were bland and uninteresting. That part of the story just felt incredibly unnecessary. Yes, I understand that part of her struggles are about not feeling wanted, but this could have been explored in a different way.
Finally, on a more positive note, my favourite part were, hands down, Echo’s friends. I enjoyed their interactions and the banter was quite fun to read, but that’s about it as they also weren’t that fleshed out. Additionally, the audiobook production itself was quite interesting. It had some effects that added a welcome layer of creepiness.
All in all, although I feel that the idea behind this book was very interesting, I didn’t find the execution to live up to it. Flat characters and a confusing narrative got in the way of this being a truly enjoyable read.
About the author
Echo Brown is a visionary storyteller from Cleveland, Ohio who strives to inspire and provoke. Her first solo show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, ran for two years to sold out crowds around the world.
Also an author, Echo writes mold-breaking autobiographical young adult fiction novels that are infused with magical realism. Her critically acclaimed debut novel, Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard, was released in January 2020 to rave reviews by Macmillan. Echo’s sophomore novel, the Chosen One: A First Generation Ivy League Odyssey, was released on January 4, 2022 and published by the Hachette Book Group.
Currently based in Cleveland, Ohio after re-locating from Paris, France, Echo is also a speechwriter and recently wrote a speech for Sunny Hostin of the View.
Have you read this book or Black Girl Unlimited? What did you think of them?