Wander in the Dark
January 2, 2024

Book Review

Wander in the Dark

reviewed by Sandra Hoover


Goodreads | Crossmyheartbookreviews

Wander in the Dark is a chilling, young adult mystery centered around themes of privilege and entitlement, blended families, family drama, social and racial injustice and minority stereotyping.  Author Jumata Emill does an outstanding job of interlacing these themes into the plot line of an agonizing murder mystery rendered through the points of view of a Black boy, Amir, who stands accused of the brutal murder of a white girl from a wealthy family and his estranged half-brother, Marcel.

From the time the hand cuffs are snapped on him, Amir knows he hasn’t a prayer of proving his innocence and is going down for something he didn’t do.  No one believes him except Marcel who refuses to abandon him to a certain death sentence without a fight as he dives into his own investigation.  What Marcel uncovers puts everything he knows and believes in question – and his life in jeopardy.  Can he unmask a murderer in time to save his brother? 

Set during the Mardi Gras in New Orleans, Wander in the Dark is a highly atmospheric, raw murder mystery with all the right ingredients to keep readers enthralled from beginning to end.  Two estranged half-brothers carry the heavy load of this family drama when one steps up to fight for the other’s life despite years of hurt and resentment festering between them.  The revelations that surface as the story progresses are deeply disturbing on every level as the blinders come off, and Marcel’s forced to face hard truths that change his life forever.  While both boys are the sons of a famous chef, it’s Marcel who’s blessed with the benefits of having been raised as a privileged minority and accepted as a member of the in-crowd by white friends . . . or has he?  As the son left behind with a poor, single mother, Amir is bitter, resentful and filled with anger over having been deserted by his father who moved on and up without him. At least Amir’s eyes are wide open, and he’s accepted the hard truths he’s forced to live with . . . or has he?  Things come crashing down one dark night when Amir’s arrested for the murder of a white girl from the other side of the tracks.  Unfortunately, he has no memory of what went down that night and is unable to defend himself against the accusations.  As an underprivileged Black teenager, he’s the perfect scrape goat for New Orleans’s elite who’ll do anything to keep their dirty little secrets buried.   

Wander in the Dark is an intense, highly atmospheric, heart-breaking murder mystery that highlights the ugly results of the profiling of minorities when the innocent is NOT presumed innocent until proven guilty.  The author does a brilliant job of weaving family drama and racial inequalities into a mesmerizing tale of horror where anything can be bought for a price, even lives.  New Orleans during the Mardi Gras where you can never be certain what’s real and what’s an illusion is the perfect backdrop for this story as it unfolds.  The increasing intensity of Amir’s situation as the danger escalates drives a torrid pace toward an explosive climax.  Readers may need a chapter or two to settle in with the social and young adult slang utilized by the author to deliver an authentic story, but I found it highly effective in raising the bar of believability of both characters and plot line.  It’s a bit of a stretch of the imagination that teenagers can solve a murder mystery that leaves authorities baffled; however, I contribute it to the fact that in the eyes of the adults, this is an open and shut case from day one.  Wander in the Dark is a totally consuming, eye opening, young adult mystery that I highly recommend to fans of mysteries, suspense and family dramas.

Wander in the Dark is available at:

More YA Thrillers


YA Thriller Features

Thrillers for Teens

Thrillers for Teens

The Best Thrillers for Teens: Get Hearts Racing with These Suspenseful Reads