It’s something about Black people and 90s pop culture that just feels so right. 90s pop culture set the stage right up front in this nostalgic YA romance. We love the 90s movie and music references! Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle really delivered.
Dani and Prince have a lot on their young shoulders, and neither of them have time for romance. Prince works as a young relationship expert for the local radio station, when he is not busy taking care of his mother with MS and his younger brother. Dani is struggling to write her essay to get into college, her ticket out to run away from the demons haunting her from that one harrowing night. And even though they least expect it, Prince gets his chance to finally put his relationship advice to the test to try to cultivate Dani falling in love with him.
My immediate thoughts about Dani and Prince were that they were old souls in young bodies. There were several places where I forgot I was reading about teens (aside from the normal developmental petty drama set in a high school backdrop). The things they liked and were interested in were things I like and am interested in. They were also dealing with really adult life issues, forcing them to grow up much faster than their peers.
Set in Blackity Black Detroit, there is very little mention of anyone other than Black folks. This is something I didn’t notice until much later in the story. As subtle as this was, it spoke volumes. I recently read an essay in the book Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service about the Tiny White Man. This phenomenon was referenced by James Baldwin and Toni Morrison referring to their work being subjected to the white gaze. Oftentimes works by Black writers are critiqued by their relationship to white people.
Love Radio doesn’t mention racism. There are no instances of racial microaggressions. The whole focus of the story is about Black people living, loving, suffering, and experiencing joy, totally absent of the white context. Black existence is not predicated on our relationship to white people.
Black love is such a beautiful thing, and this story oozes with all the sweet, chocolatey goodness. Black love is the salve in a white supremacist world, and it should be celebrated. We see Black love on all levels in the story: of course between Dani and Prince, but also between Dani’s parents, how Prince cares for his mother and brother, between Dani and Prince and their friends, and even extended from their community.
Love Radio is great for those younger readers with older souls. I think it is also great for adults. I do think some younger readers might have difficulty relating to the references, but they will if they know what their parents like. Pick up this book if you want a cute love story devoid of toxic tropes!