Book Review: Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

Thanks Goodreads for sending me a copy of Black Buck in exchange for an honest review.

Title: Black Buck

Author: Mateo Askaripour

Page Count: 381

Publication Date: 01/2021

Rating: 4/5 stars

Happy New Year everyone! I’m back with my first book review of 2021. I’m really excited about this one because I’ve been looking forward to this release since it was announced. My first introduction to Mateo was a Medium article he posted about the racism he experienced in my hometown as a child. Despite the unfortunate but all too common situation in the part of New York I’m from, I was excited to see some talent from my area make a name for themselves in writing.

Too bad he wasn’t from around here! I actually reached out to him via Twitter after reading it, and he told me he was only here for the soccer game he wrote the story about. Oh well lol. He was super nice about it.

So what can I say about Black Buck? The back cover boasts that it’s perfect for fans of Sorry to Bother you and The Wolf on Wall Street, two movies I’ve never seen. But that could change after reading this book because I absolutely loved this story.

Black Buck is a story about a young man named Darren – or Buck as he will later be known. He’s that one friend everyone has. Super smart, loaded with potential but wasting it away one way or another. In Darren’s case, he’s a Barista at Starbucks and quite happy at his job. But a chance meeting with a CEO opens the door to an opportunity in sales for a tech company.

Darren quickly goes from a slacker with potential to a ruthless salesman, and all hell breaks loose when he becomes unrecognizable to his friends and family. This may sound like the makings of a cliche rags-to-riches story, but it’s so much more. Race, social class, Corporate America, gentrification are just a few of the themes that make their way through the pages.

Yellow and orange image with a quote from the book:

The quality of the answer is determined by the quality of the question.

Black Buck proves that Askaripour is capable of crafting a witty, hilarious page-turner. From the first chapter, Darren’s intellect, drive, and ambition (even in his seemingly less than stellar job as a barista) jumped off the pages and roped me in for the two days it took for me to devour this book.

The writing style is unique; Askaripour takes a self-help/autobiographical approach to tell Darren’s story, and it works. For one, the countless gems dropped throughout the chapters are much appreciated, and I surprised myself with the amount of notes I took. And, it’s fitting that a salesman wouldn’t tell his story for free.

Another highlight for me was how a plot twist (or shift, maybe?) played out well before the end. From the placement to execution, Askaripour slides some unexpected info on Darren with the finesse of a seasoned salesman. The shock didn’t last long, but I was genuinely impressed.

There were parts of this book that felt rushed. For one, the fact that this story took place over the course of about a year. That felt like a bit much, but I recognize this story is satire, and I may be overthinking it. I also didn’t understand the rapid change in his relationship with his best friend, Jason. I wish more time were spent on that because, for a while, Jason came off as a hater to me.

There’s so much to unpack about this story. I barely touched on some of the themes this book explores. Still, I can tell you if you’re a BIPOC who has had any experience in predominately white spaces (assuming this applies to almost all of us in the U.S. at minimum), then you’ll find yourself laughing, raging, and scratching your head at some of the things Darren went through.

I’ll end by saying this is as good as you can expect from any debut. I wouldn’t be mad if Askaripour decided to revisit Darren or the supporting characters in a future novel. Although similar movies exist, I have my fingers crossed for Netflix to pick Black Buck up as a series. I’d love to see this story come to life.

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