The new rom-com young adult novel ‘Friday I’m in Love’ celebrates young, Black queer joy

“Friday I’m in Love” author Camryn Garrett wants her young adult readers to celebrate themselves and embrace change.

Creative seeds planted during the peak of the pandemic are still coming to fruition. During a time when the world was undergoing intense sadness and pain, people were searching for every ounce of happiness. For author Camryn Garrett, her third novel, “Friday I’m in Love,” was her source of light. 

The romantic comedy follows Mahalia Harris, who decides to throw herself a coming-out party because she missed out on having a “Sweet 16” party like her best friend. Her intention is to celebrate her sexuality with her friends and family, but she runs into several hurdles along the way. The story follows the 16-year-old as she tries to balance taking on extra hours at her after-school job to save money, trying on dresses, flirting awkwardly with the new girl in school, and more.

Friday I'm in Love, Camryn Garrett, LGBTQ, YA novels, Black authors, Gen Z authors,
“Friday I’m in Love” is the third novel from author Camryn Garrett. (Photo credits: book cover, Penguin Random House; photo of Garrett, Louisa Wells)

Inspired heavily by teen movies and young adult novels, Garrett, a Gen Z-er herself, aimed to write something fun. She was very intentional about putting Black queer kids at the center of the story. Although the characters don’t know every detail about their developing selves, she wanted to depict them as still being proud of who they are. 

“There can be a lot of pressure to … know exactly who you are at such a young age, and I think we should celebrate the parts of yourself that you already know [and] who you are, before you change,” Garrett told theGrio.

With this novel, Garrett joins the multitude of Black authors being elevated in the renaissance of storytelling. Every genre, from fantasy to murder mystery, and at every level, from children’s books to adult novels, is seeing an increase in authentic and diverse Black stories, something Garrett is happy to see.

At a young age, the serial novelist was extremely shy. Garrett used books as a way to learn about the world and about herself, which is why she believes it is absolutely necessary to have a variety of stories featuring Black main characters. She also believes it is essential for people to be able to read narratives about Black people that exist outside of police brutality and slavery. 

“It’s really important, especially in [young adult narratives] … because it helps kids see different types of people [and] different types of lives that they wouldn’t be exposed to before,” Garrett said. “Then, to take it a step further, it’s really important for Black kids because a lot of the time we aren’t … presented with the wealth of options that white people are.”

Garrett’s third novel explores what it means to be young, Black and queer. She wrote the first draft of “Friday I’m In Love,” when she was in high school, then edited it after she graduated from college. Revisiting the story allowed her to look back on and write for her younger self, which the author now describes as “inspiring in a weird way.” 

Above all, Garrett simply wanted to write a story that was authentic to Black queer people. However, for years, she faced a mental block during her attempts to write a book with queer characters, fearing people would say it wasn’t authentic enough. Throughout the process of publishing this story, she was able to recognize what queerness meant to her and, most importantly, understand that there isn’t a single way to be queer. 

“I think this should be a given, but you aren’t any less Black for being queer, and you aren’t any less queer for being Black,” Garrett told theGrio. “Your identities, like you, are so much more interesting, cool, and important [because you are] being who you are, and you shouldn’t ever be ashamed of any part of that.”

Garrett wants every person who reads the book to leave with two things: the idea of celebrating yourself for any reason and the notion that it’s OK to change. She believes that people need to take time and celebrate themselves as much as possible, even if it is simply buying themselves baked goods for no reason. She also wants everyone to know it is OK not to have everything figured out at a young age. 

“I feel like the fact that you are here, you’re alive, and you are doing it is reason enough for celebration,” she said. “It’s really important to me that teens don’t feel so pressured about locking down one identity or one idea of themselves at 18 or 17 or 16 because … as we get older, [we] change so much.”

Kayla Grant

Kayla Grant is a multimedia journalist with bylines in Business Insider, Shondaland, Oz Magazine, Prism, Rolling Out and more. She writes about culture, books and entertainment news. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant.

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