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An award-winning author makes her fiction debut with this coming-of-age story of three young black children set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979.


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An award-winning author makes her fiction debut with this coming-of-age story of three young black children set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979.

30 review for Leaving Atlanta

  1. 4 out of 5

    Tonya

    For me, this is the first story that I can ever remember reading that shared my voice as a child growing up in a major Southern city. It took place at a time when, first of all, it's tough growing up and being eleven years old and then to deal with a real-live nationally-known bogeyman lurking around the city (the Atlanta Child Murders case). My own memories of that time are vivid; when they found another child, we were in fear several hundred miles away. Leaving Atlanta gave life to the black c For me, this is the first story that I can ever remember reading that shared my voice as a child growing up in a major Southern city. It took place at a time when, first of all, it's tough growing up and being eleven years old and then to deal with a real-live nationally-known bogeyman lurking around the city (the Atlanta Child Murders case). My own memories of that time are vivid; when they found another child, we were in fear several hundred miles away. Leaving Atlanta gave life to the black children of the 1970s that was far beyond the televised segments of What's Happening and Good Times. The vernacular, the lifestyle joys of playing in a neighborhood - outside (gasp... these days), skating rinks - all rang so familiar to me that I simply loved it as I was placed back in that time. Tayari shares it so beautifully anyone would be sent back. This story is not about race, it's about children, period. Trying to figure out their place in this world, trying to make sure they don't do anything to jeopardize their parent's love (they wouldn't but, of course they don't know otherwise), trying to be liked by their peers and just trying to like themselves. A Judy Blume book is a fixture in the hands of many youngsters today just as they were then, Tayari shared that point and I loved that, too. Authentic element. She also added one interesting classmate that won my heart - a fine technique. I'm not one to provide spoilers; I highly recommend this story of a such a vastly different time, free from the influx of technology, giving kids the chance to be kids.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jamilla Rice

    In this, her first novel, Tayari Jones illustrates the fears and joys of children on the cusp of adolescence within the backdrop of one of the most frightening national tragedies that most people have not even heard of: the Atlanta Child Murders. Narrating the stories of three 5th graders, (Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia) using third, second, then first person point of view, the story flows like a classic jumprope game, with two of the three children taking a background role while the third stands i In this, her first novel, Tayari Jones illustrates the fears and joys of children on the cusp of adolescence within the backdrop of one of the most frightening national tragedies that most people have not even heard of: the Atlanta Child Murders. Narrating the stories of three 5th graders, (Tasha, Rodney, and Octavia) using third, second, then first person point of view, the story flows like a classic jumprope game, with two of the three children taking a background role while the third stands in the middle, jumping to the rhythm of the rope, telling his or her own tale. One jumps out, grabs the end of the rope, and cranks the rope while the next one can have his or her own say. Jones slowly pulls readers in closer to the characters and the setting, helping us to see how panic and anger grow with each missing child and each recovered body. But more than a fictionalization of this event, the novel is about children trying to find their place within their families and the world at a time when they are able to control very little, not even their own bodies. Like her "idol", Judy Blume, Jones is able to capture the cadence of children's speech and thoughts, taking her readers back to a time when they too would give anything to have one good friend to be able to be "more of yourself" around. In fact, it's what we continue to seek to this day.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sharlene

    It’s funny the things one thinks about in the early morning. After a 2 am feeding, I lay in bed trying to find my way back into dreamland (it’s usually difficult, as once I’m up, I’m up). And I was thinking about the last book I finished, Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones, and how it’s taken me quite a while to sit down and write about it. Because it deserves to be written about. I eventually drifted off to sleep (only to be woken by the wee reader’s grunts around 630 as he stirred but didn’t quit It’s funny the things one thinks about in the early morning. After a 2 am feeding, I lay in bed trying to find my way back into dreamland (it’s usually difficult, as once I’m up, I’m up). And I was thinking about the last book I finished, Leaving Atlanta by Tayari Jones, and how it’s taken me quite a while to sit down and write about it. Because it deserves to be written about. I eventually drifted off to sleep (only to be woken by the wee reader’s grunts around 630 as he stirred but didn’t quite wake until an hour later), but felt that today ought to be the day that I write about this book. And so, here it is. The stories of three fifth-graders who attend Oglethorpe Elementary are tied to the nightmare of 1979 in Atlanta, when African-American children began vanishing and turning up dead. Tasha is desperately trying to fit in with her classmates (one day she’s buds, the next day, she’s not invited to their sleepover… kids!). Rodney just doesn’t seem to be able to fit in anywhere – at home or at school, but he begins to be friendly with Octavia, the final narrator. The kids tease Octavia for being poor and for the colour of her skin (they call her “Watusi”) but she’s a tough kid and like Rodney, a loner. Jones has crafted some wonderful characters. The stories of these three children – though schoolmates, they are from different walks of life – weave together issues of class, race, and of trying to fit in at school, as the cloud of fear hangs over the neighbourhood. It is not so much about a plot as it is a delving into their lives, their perceptions of the disappearances, their relationships with their parents and siblings and their classmates. Their fears and troubles are all too real, and I’m not just talking about the possibility of being abducted and murdered. But of those awkward years trying to fit in at school, which Jones so convincingly portrays, and which everyone can easily relate to. I didn’t expect this book to move me the way it did, I didn’t expect that three stories from the perspectives of three children could tell me so much about the way life works. Don’t you just love it when a book overthrows all your expectations?

  4. 4 out of 5

    Renée | Book Girl Magic

    This books definitely kept me intrigued. This is my second Tayari Jones novel and it was so different from An American Marriage (which I really enjoyed). I love the way she develops characters and makes you feel as if you truly know them. The Atlanta Child Murders was something I first discovered about a year ago when stumbling upon the Atlanta Monster podcast. I was intrigued to know more about who the killer was and the stories of these poor children. Although fictional, this book was definite This books definitely kept me intrigued. This is my second Tayari Jones novel and it was so different from An American Marriage (which I really enjoyed). I love the way she develops characters and makes you feel as if you truly know them. The Atlanta Child Murders was something I first discovered about a year ago when stumbling upon the Atlanta Monster podcast. I was intrigued to know more about who the killer was and the stories of these poor children. Although fictional, this book was definitely enlightening in so many ways. It made you feel as if you were present during that time and looking over your shoulder out of living in constant fear. This book felt like home with so many Atlanta references. It’s one that kept my attention and that I truly enjoyed. You begin to sympathize with the young children as their friends seem to be picked off one by one. I rated this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Missy

    This is a book that will stay with me for a while. It's shattering, both due to the heavy subject matter and the perspective, so there's no way to respond objectively to the story. I chose this book both for its familiarity (I lived in Atlanta for four years) and for the challenge (my white suburban upbringing differed drastically from the childhoods of the main characters). Tayari Jones has crafted a story that is both easily accessible and starkly honest, which she does brilliantly by inhabitin This is a book that will stay with me for a while. It's shattering, both due to the heavy subject matter and the perspective, so there's no way to respond objectively to the story. I chose this book both for its familiarity (I lived in Atlanta for four years) and for the challenge (my white suburban upbringing differed drastically from the childhoods of the main characters). Tayari Jones has crafted a story that is both easily accessible and starkly honest, which she does brilliantly by inhabiting the mind of a child (three, actually). The children in her story experience the joy of new clothes, the comfort of maternal embraces, the thrill of rule-breaking, peer pressure, the devastation of bullying, and the shame of being different. These are experiences that all people can relate to, even those whose socioeconomic context was very different from children in 1980 Southside Atlanta. Even more inviting is the way that Jones writes the sensory experience of childhood: the smells, textures, temperatures, sights, sounds, and other physical sensations of everyday life are described in vivid detail, drawing the reader into the setting until it feels surprisingly familiar. Woven into this world, however, are the truths that are likely less familiar and less comfortable for white readers like myself: the pervasive (and justified) distrust of white people, especially authority figures. The depressed economic circumstances that cause characters to sort themselves into social strata based on tiny differences: on which side of the same street they live, how clean their clothes are, who can be trusted at the corner store or skating rink. The explosive trend of absent fathers. Interestingly, each of the children in this story has a father who is involved in their lives in some way (to varying degrees), but consequences of this trend affect them deeply, adding strain and complexity to their parental relationships that those outside their community could not possibly understand. Lest the reader imagine these circumstances are exaggerated, Jones wisely has her adult characters provide historical context by telling tales of their own childhoods, so it becomes clear how the prejudices of decades past continue to have repercussions on successive generations. The whole story is set against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979-81, which I'd actually never heard of before. I googled them early in my read of the book, and was shocked to learn the true story (what is known or suspected, anyway). It seems obvious that the case gets less attention than even those with a lower body count because of the racial element - the Wikipedia entry I read didn't even mention that the victims were predominantly (or all?) black. It was frankly horrifying, and imagining what the black families of Atlanta must have felt at the time is devastating and humbling. In fact, being a parent myself is what really intensified the impact of this book for me. I could relate to the fear the parents had for their children, but with the additional social pressures they faced, it seems that it must have been impossible to focus on raising their kids. It's heartrending when the children in the book suffer the flaws of their parents, because the humanity of both child and parent seems to condemn and redeem them all at once. This is a gorgeous book and I absolutely recommend it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Regan

    This is my third Tayari Jones novel and her writing feels like truth. Messy, uncomfortable, and ultimately beautiful. I appreciate how undone she leaves her endings: loose and pulsing with life. She reminds me of Toni Morrison.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Mo

    WOW. I literally engulfed this book within a day's time. I have other book club monthly reads and just wanted to start a few pages of this book; then, I couldn't put it down. This book was published in 2003 and this is my first time hearing of it. I lived in Atlanta then. The author's ability to capture and express the candid expressions, fears, perspectives, and voices of so many black middle school voices (in the midst of the Atlanta Child Murders) is nothing short of brilliant. I enjoyed this WOW. I literally engulfed this book within a day's time. I have other book club monthly reads and just wanted to start a few pages of this book; then, I couldn't put it down. This book was published in 2003 and this is my first time hearing of it. I lived in Atlanta then. The author's ability to capture and express the candid expressions, fears, perspectives, and voices of so many black middle school voices (in the midst of the Atlanta Child Murders) is nothing short of brilliant. I enjoyed this book even more than An American Marriage, though the prose and dialogues are just as superb. All I can do is continue to read more.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Tam

    While I waited for her newest book from the library, I took her two previous ones out and just finished Leaving Atlanta which I loved - the author has a beautiful way or writing that brings you right into the story and keeps you interested throughout - I just started her next one “The Untelling” and I’m enjoying it very much and can see how her writing became even better - I can’t wait to read An American Marriage

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    I enjoyed reading this account of the Alanta child murders as related from the viewpoint of three children. It makes one remember that children are children. They don't think like adults nor should they be expected to and one should always keep this in mind when dealing with issues involving children. Leaving Atlanta, delves into different levels of coming of age in a time of racial inequality, parental disciplinaary actions, class disctinctions and the reality that children are being taken by so I enjoyed reading this account of the Alanta child murders as related from the viewpoint of three children. It makes one remember that children are children. They don't think like adults nor should they be expected to and one should always keep this in mind when dealing with issues involving children. Leaving Atlanta, delves into different levels of coming of age in a time of racial inequality, parental disciplinaary actions, class disctinctions and the reality that children are being taken by some unknown person or persons. My first impression was that it was an okay read, however, as the book progressed, I began to read with the eyes and minds of the children and by the end of the book it had become a beautifully written work for me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alena

    I’m a huge fan of Tayari Jones and have had her debut novel on my TBR ever since reading Silver Sparrow. So glad I finally placed the library order. Set against the real-life backdrop of the terrifying murders of black children in Atlanta in 1979, jones provides the children’s viewpoints, living in fear — not just of the murders but of all the unknowns and scary things that come along with 5th grade, puberty, and living as a black youth in Atlanta. Surprisingly, I felt more sadness and longing t I’m a huge fan of Tayari Jones and have had her debut novel on my TBR ever since reading Silver Sparrow. So glad I finally placed the library order. Set against the real-life backdrop of the terrifying murders of black children in Atlanta in 1979, jones provides the children’s viewpoints, living in fear — not just of the murders but of all the unknowns and scary things that come along with 5th grade, puberty, and living as a black youth in Atlanta. Surprisingly, I felt more sadness and longing than terror and fear in this book. It’s told in the brilliant voice I expect of Jones. I say again that she should be required reading.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rory

    Felt like a first novel, but a very good one. Rich, easy-stroke characterization, confident language, and a fascinating (albeit nightmarish) setting. Switching from third to second to first person is an effective mechanism for drawing the reader in--and oh, your heart just clenches for these kids, who are wondering who to trust in late 70s Atlanta during an infamous child murder spree.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yolo

    Leaving Atlanta tells the story of classmates Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green and Octavia Harrison during their fifth-grade year at Oglethorpe Elementary in Atlanta. "Might nothing. Think about it. You ain’t never heard of nobody black going around killing people for no reason. That’s white people’s shit." Tasha is eager to return to school to show off her jump rope skills after practicing all summer to perfect her moves. If she can perfect her foot work then she may gain a spot in the clique of Monic Leaving Atlanta tells the story of classmates Tasha Baxter, Rodney Green and Octavia Harrison during their fifth-grade year at Oglethorpe Elementary in Atlanta. "Might nothing. Think about it. You ain’t never heard of nobody black going around killing people for no reason. That’s white people’s shit." Tasha is eager to return to school to show off her jump rope skills after practicing all summer to perfect her moves. If she can perfect her foot work then she may gain a spot in the clique of Monica and Forsythia. However, those dreams come to a halt when she finds out that jumping rope in fifth-grade is “baby stuff” according to Monica. As the girls graduate from jumping rope to playing jacks, Tasha shows off her skills and puts a whipping on Monica. That doesn’t help her chances of gaining access to the in-crowd but it does cause her to question the state of her family. "You now know, as undeniably as if you had read it in the World Book Encyclopedia, that Officer Brown has nothing useful to share. As a matter of fact, you are more fearful than ever to know that this man is all that stands between your generation and an early death." Rodney is a loner who has little to say but his thoughts are priceless. He spends his days trying to make himself invisible as he comes to grips with the fact that he’ll never please his father. If only “an epidemic of disappearing black fathers” hit his home like so many of his friends everything would be okay. Instead his dad appears at the school after Rodney falls asleep at recess and misses lunch. After being humiliated in front of his peers he is convinced that any place is better than home. "Kodak commercials say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but the one they showed of ____ ain’t worth more than three or four. ____. Black. Dead." Octavia, another outcast, is affectionately called “Sweet Pea” by her single mom but is ostracized for her dark skin and is teasingly called “Watusi” by her classmates. Unlike her “almost friend” Rodney who tries to make himself invisible, Octavia has a good aim and will fight back with words and rocks. But when two people she knows goes missing she is forced to deal with the consequences. Leaving Atlanta is one of the few stories that make you start your sentence with, “Girl let me tell you about this book…” when asked how you like it. This novel is a fictional story set in Atlanta during one of Atlanta’s America’s darkest hours, Atlanta’s Child Murders. During the years of 1979-1982, twenty-nine children went missing and some were found dead. Born in 1978, I’m too young to remember these events but author Tayari Jones delivers a first hand account from the third person narrative of Tasha, the second person narrative of Rodney and a first person account by Octavia. Each of the fifth-graders tell the story from their own unbiased point-of-view. As I read the book I felt like I was in Atlanta during these events. The feelings that resonated from the characters were feelings I could remember having as a child. I found myself thinking on many occasions, “Tayari had to have really dug deep in her past to nail these childlike characteristics.” I also wondered if writing this book had affected her mental state since two of her classmates were among the twenty-nine missing. I’m not sure I could have told this story but Tayari did and it was done with a style that is to be envied. Her descriptive words and language never failed to paint a picture or conjure feelings of my childhood. What I loved most about this book was that it didn’t talk so much about the Atlanta Child Murders but focused more on how the community reacted to it, especially the children. I couldn’t imagine having to walk home from school with a serial killer on the loose. This novel is broken into three parts with a three, two, one punch that hits you hard below the belt. Initially you would think that the three different perspectives would be ill-fitting but they all meshed together to tell a wonderful story about an unfortunate time in our history.

  13. 5 out of 5

    nomadreader (Carrie D-L)

    (originally published at http://nomadreader.blogspot.com) The backstory: Leaving Atlanta is the first novel by Tayari Jones. After adoring her most recent novel, Silver Sparrow (my review), I finally got around to reading this one ("finally getting around to reading" was the theme of much of my holiday break binge-reading!) The basics: Told in three parts from the perspective of three black middle school students in southwest Atlanta, Leaving Atlanta takes place at the time of the notorious A (originally published at http://nomadreader.blogspot.com) The backstory: Leaving Atlanta is the first novel by Tayari Jones. After adoring her most recent novel, Silver Sparrow (my review), I finally got around to reading this one ("finally getting around to reading" was the theme of much of my holiday break binge-reading!) The basics: Told in three parts from the perspective of three black middle school students in southwest Atlanta, Leaving Atlanta takes place at the time of the notorious Atlanta Child Murders. My thoughts: I spent almost half my life in Atlanta (although I'm getting farther away from that every year!) Regardless, I've lived more years in Atlanta than in any other city, and I've been fascinated by the Atlanta Child Murders since I first heard of them. Jones introduces the reader to this time through three different child narrators. Each of the three takes one section, although the sections frequently reference the other narrators. I have mixed reactions to this storytelling approach. Typically, I love different narrators, but these narrators didn't alternate. When narration first switched, it took me a few pages to re-orient myself. The transition to the third narrator was much smoother, and I was excited to see which student was taking over the story. In one sense, I think Jones captured the atmosphere of what it was like to be a child in southwest Atlanta at that time. That one of the classmates, but not one of the three narrators, is named Tayari Jones, certainly gives credance to this theory. Obviously these children are scared, but as is often the case with child narrators, they don't really understand what's going on. (To be fair, I don't think anyone really understood what was happening at this time.) As I read, and after I finished the novel, I've been wrestling with what pieces didn't quite work for me, and I still struggle to articulate them. In many ways, Jones was incredibly successful, which makes me wonder if my perception of the novel's shortcomings are about my own expectations of this subject rather than her execution. Ultimately, I failed to emotionally connect with any of the three narrators, which left me wanting if not something more, something slightly different. It's a very good novel, but I wanted it to be a great one. Favorite passage:  "How can I say that I can’t stand to talk about it? And how can you say that you can’t stand to hear it when other people are living it?” The verdict: There is much to ponder, savor, and enjoy in Leaving Atlanta. Emotionally, however, it fell a bit short for me. Yet as I read, I found myself wanting more, whether it was the perspective of more narrators or more terror, as someone who already knew so much about this frightful time, I simply yearned for more.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Durham

    Let me begin by saying this was my first read by Tayari Jones. But, it won’t be my last. Secondly, it took me back to a sad time: the Atlanta child murders in 1979 - 1981. During this time over 20 children and young adults were murdered. Thirdly and most importantly, for the first time, the story was told through the eyes of the children. The writer enabled Octavia, Tausha and others to show the readers the effect that this had on them and how their innocence was taken as well as their lives for Let me begin by saying this was my first read by Tayari Jones. But, it won’t be my last. Secondly, it took me back to a sad time: the Atlanta child murders in 1979 - 1981. During this time over 20 children and young adults were murdered. Thirdly and most importantly, for the first time, the story was told through the eyes of the children. The writer enabled Octavia, Tausha and others to show the readers the effect that this had on them and how their innocence was taken as well as their lives forever changed. As I read the book, I was reminded of a song by Amy Grant entitled Innocence Lost. The song starts off: ”I can't relive my life....I can’t retrace my tracks....I can’t undo what’s done and there’s no going back.” That’s all I thought about as I read. I can’t imagine living a life whereas Innocence was lost. An upbringing of innocence should be a guarantee. The youngsters were going through the typical things that children experience: peer pressure and acceptance, coming to grips with self awareness and their own consciousness as well as image and puberty woes. Then, out of nowhere: innocence lost (i.e. children not returning home, girls starting periods, parenting and communities changing their normal routines and the buddy system and Guardian Angels becoming a part of the new normal). Like Tausha’s father, I didn’t see the arrest of Wayne Williams coming. Like Rodney and others, their view was the killer wore a uniform. It goes to show that there is no picture of who can and who will resort to such behavior. The book also reflected that even when informed of what to do or not to do...children are just that...children. Some will go with strangers while others won’t. But, nevertheless, it’s important to talk with children about leaving with others w/o permission. Safety and placing precautions around them; i.e. buzz words and the like. On February 27, 1982, like many others I shouted loudly when the jury found Wayne Williams guilty of two murders and sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. Even after various cases were reopened, they, too, were attributed to him. What a wonderful work. Kudos to the author. Kudos to the thought to reflect how this devastation was seen through the eyes of the children. Note: Great Job!

  15. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    This is my first Tayari Jones read. The novel was exceptional written(my opinion). It is an emotional, heartbreaking read. I don’t recall much about the “The Atlanta Child Murders” prior to reading the novel which brought awareness to a dark time in American history.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    Leaving Atlanta is a story that definitely left its mark on me. Even as I moved on to reading other books, I found my mind returning to the characters in this book, wondering about them as if they were real people I interacted with in my life. Maybe it's because the main characters were children, naive to the world, that I wanted to reach out and protect. Whatever the reason, I was thoroughly impressed with this novel, and probably even more so because of the depth of the story despite its simpl Leaving Atlanta is a story that definitely left its mark on me. Even as I moved on to reading other books, I found my mind returning to the characters in this book, wondering about them as if they were real people I interacted with in my life. Maybe it's because the main characters were children, naive to the world, that I wanted to reach out and protect. Whatever the reason, I was thoroughly impressed with this novel, and probably even more so because of the depth of the story despite its simplicity. Leaving Atlanta is told against the backdrop of the Atlanta child murders of 1979. This true event involved the kidnapping and murder of over twenty African American children in Atlanta, Georgia between 1979 and 1981. Childhood can be difficult enough, fitting in at school, trying to make friends, without having to worry that you'll be the next child snatched off the street and murdered. Yet, such was the reality for the children of fictional Oglethorpe Elementary. They were faced with trying to understand the frenzy their parents were placed in, worrying about their children coming straight home after school. Worrying about who the murderer could be. Told in three parts (each focusing on a different child), Jones worries less about a specific plot and more about bringing the reader into the mind and daily life of a child caught in this scary situation. And although the murders are the main thing on everyone's minds, the children are also learning about the world around them and dealing with issues such as race, poverty, abuse, peer groups, and bullying. Jones's character development was superb. The writing was told from a child's perspective (first in third person, then in second, then in first) but didn't revert to childlike language. I thought it was such an astute manner of writing because other than the use of the child's language in dialogue, the only other "childish" part was the perception of the child. I was able to appreciate the writing while still feeling as though I was in the child's thoughts. I became so attached to the character of Tasha in the first part of the book that I was devastated when I realized the second part was told from the point of view of another character. But just like part one, I grew to care about the second and third characters immensely. The ending of the second part gave me chills. The significance of what life meant for that child, and the decision he makes... it's one I won't forget. I wish I knew someone else who read this just so I can discuss that one part! Leaving Atlanta is a book about children and about the big bad world. Its quiet subtlety masks a surprising intensity that will leave you thinking about it for a long time after turning that last page. Looking forward to reading more by this author! Taken from my blog at www.takemeawayreading.com

  17. 4 out of 5

    ☯Emily Ginder

    Between 1979 and 1981, many black children in Atlanta, GA were killed. Ms. Jones explores how these murders affected the children of Atlanta. The novel relates this terrifying time through the eyes of three children. The first story is told in third person, the second in second person, and the last is told in first person. All the stories are horrifying, although the second one about Rodney is especially troubling. This novel is not just about the murders, but about the trials of growing up in t Between 1979 and 1981, many black children in Atlanta, GA were killed. Ms. Jones explores how these murders affected the children of Atlanta. The novel relates this terrifying time through the eyes of three children. The first story is told in third person, the second in second person, and the last is told in first person. All the stories are horrifying, although the second one about Rodney is especially troubling. This novel is not just about the murders, but about the trials of growing up in the early 80's, but especially growing up black. Their parents remembered the Civil Rights movement and living in segregated society. They were convinced that the murders were being committed by whites. How could they protect their children? Many decisions had to be made and those decisions affected the children. I thought the author portrayed the thought processes of 11 year olds pretty well; their petty fights, the struggles to understand a frightening world and each other, while trying to cope with adults who appeared to be uncaring or angry or unloving. The book is definitely easy to read and almost seems like a YA book rather than a book for the adult reader.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Megan

    'Leaving Atlanta' is an exceptional historical fiction novel that chronicles the murders of over twenty black children in Atlanta in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Told from the perspectives of three young elementary school students, Tayari Jones weaves a tale of fear, mystery and coming of age in a world so terrifying and uneasy for so many children. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy more modern historical fiction, true crime novels (though thi 'Leaving Atlanta' is an exceptional historical fiction novel that chronicles the murders of over twenty black children in Atlanta in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Told from the perspectives of three young elementary school students, Tayari Jones weaves a tale of fear, mystery and coming of age in a world so terrifying and uneasy for so many children. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and would definitely recommend it to those who enjoy more modern historical fiction, true crime novels (though this one is only fiction based on a true event), and authors like Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou. My only real complaint is that the author has inserted herself into the novel as a minor character. I'm guessing it was to make it feel more authentic since she is real and the child murders were real. However, it is jarring every time she mentions herself by name and is quite strange seeing how this is only a fiction novel. Outside of that, I have no complaints or critiques. It's dark, it's deep, it's fast paced and it will utterly engulf you. Four stars.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Andy Weston

    Jones's first novel that takes place in the late summer of 1979 in Atlanta; rain has been falling for three straight months, washing out any hopes of a summer vacation for the city's school children, and though barely anyone notices, young black boys are going missing. Four children are found murdered before anyone even admits that there is a connection between their disappearances. During he Atlanta Child Murders, spread between 1979 and 1981, at least 28 black children and adults were killed by Jones's first novel that takes place in the late summer of 1979 in Atlanta; rain has been falling for three straight months, washing out any hopes of a summer vacation for the city's school children, and though barely anyone notices, young black boys are going missing. Four children are found murdered before anyone even admits that there is a connection between their disappearances. During he Atlanta Child Murders, spread between 1979 and 1981, at least 28 black children and adults were killed by a serial killer. Tayari Jones herself, grew up in Atlanta in this time period, and two of the murdered children were from her elementary school. Jones excels in writing from the perspective of a child; each of the book's three sections are told by a child in he fifth grade class, she even occasionally refers to herself by name. This is a touching and sensitive novel that conveys the sense of terror and helplessness, fear and suspicion that swept through an already racially and politically charged city.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Taryn

    Leaving Atlanta is a novel told in three distinct voices. LaTasha, Rodney, and Octavia are fifth grade classmates living in Atlanta during the time of the real-life child murders in 1980-81. The kids may be living under the same cloud of fear and dread, but Jones demonstrates with some amazing tonal shifts how different their experiences and feelings are. I hadn't read much about the book before starting it, so when the book opens with Tasha's section, I expected the entire novel to center aroun Leaving Atlanta is a novel told in three distinct voices. LaTasha, Rodney, and Octavia are fifth grade classmates living in Atlanta during the time of the real-life child murders in 1980-81. The kids may be living under the same cloud of fear and dread, but Jones demonstrates with some amazing tonal shifts how different their experiences and feelings are. I hadn't read much about the book before starting it, so when the book opens with Tasha's section, I expected the entire novel to center around her. And I would have been fine with that—a book about just Tasha would have been great. Jones relates her story in a close third-person, sensitively portraying her attempts at being cool, her fear and hurt at her parents' separation, her loving but typically bossy relationship with her little sister. I was surprised and a little disappointed at first when I turned the page and discovered the second part of the book wasn't about Tasha, but I was just as quickly enthralled by Rodney's story, and Octavia's after it. And I have to mention that Rodney's section is the most effective use of second person narration I've ever seen. Jones is so smooth with it, I didn't even notice it was second person until I was several pages in. I generally like it when authors go with second person, but it's a choice that always draws attention to itself, like “Look at me, I've been to a writer's workshop!” In Jones's hands, though, it's more than a showy gimmick—it's a necessary aid to the narrative. Rodney, the most enigmatic character of the three, is instantly knowable thanks to the repeated “you, you, you.” Even though I wasn't sold on the format at first, by the last page I was convinced the novel gets its power from the combination of all three children's voices. What could have been a singular story becomes universal when the overlapping stories are presented together. Jones was a child herself in Atlanta during the time of the murders, and she expresses well the fear and uncertainty that kind of violence visited on the community. By the time the murders ended, at least 29 African-American children were dead. Most haunting of all, Jones explains in the author's note that though a person widely suspected to be responsible was jailed on other charges, many Atlanta residents believe the real murderer is still at large. More book recommendations by me at www.readingwithhippos.com

  21. 5 out of 5

    Maythee

    I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now. Tayari is an ASU MFA grad and has a great literary blog. I'm glad I finally got to it because this is a really good story. Somehow I never heard about the Atlanta child murders despite the fact that they occurred during the time when I was growing up. Nevertheless, I completely related to how her young characters experienced the events (the novel is told from the perspective of three different children). Jones does a wonderful job of capturing I've been wanting to read this book for awhile now. Tayari is an ASU MFA grad and has a great literary blog. I'm glad I finally got to it because this is a really good story. Somehow I never heard about the Atlanta child murders despite the fact that they occurred during the time when I was growing up. Nevertheless, I completely related to how her young characters experienced the events (the novel is told from the perspective of three different children). Jones does a wonderful job of capturing the small things that are so huge in a young child's life. She also brings out their loveliness and quirky personalities in ways that makes them come alive and leave us remembering them long after their portion of the story has been told. In addition, she handles fear in a believable and tangible manner. You're there with the characters. You're also reminded how often we don't pay attention to what children are thinking. I also liked that this story was as intimately about the southern African American experience as it was universal. Her details were subtle yet right on. For example, she gives you distinctions in class, hints of the prejudices still faced, and nuances that shape a particular family and community without ever forcing things or relying on what outsiders expect to read about African American culture. The novel is smooth but not slick. Touching but not sappy. Actually when I reflect on it, I'd say the two words that most describe the story are tough and lovely, an odd combination I know but they work together in this novel. It's an excellent debut effort. Since it's a quick read, I also recommend it as a way to get some quality reading in during busy times.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sally Kilpatrick

    I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for your Christmas Day reading as I did, but it's well worth a read. Jones has woven a story with a gripping plot, gorgeous prose, spot on dialect, and enduring resonance. Just wow. Leaving Atlanta tells the story of the 1979 Atlanta Child murders from the point of view of three different 5th graders. What truly makes the book powerful is how the fear of being snatched interweaves itself with all of the normal anxieties of a 5th grader. There would have to be I'm not sure I'd recommend this book for your Christmas Day reading as I did, but it's well worth a read. Jones has woven a story with a gripping plot, gorgeous prose, spot on dialect, and enduring resonance. Just wow. Leaving Atlanta tells the story of the 1979 Atlanta Child murders from the point of view of three different 5th graders. What truly makes the book powerful is how the fear of being snatched interweaves itself with all of the normal anxieties of a 5th grader. There would have to be the temptation to put the murders front and center, but the other things going on in each child's life add real depth to the story. I could not put this story down. Don't expect a rosy story. These kids face the separation of their parents, poverty, the first angst of impending adolescence, and the harsh reality of not "fitting in." Add to those the racial tension of a community close to the projects and simply being African-American less than 20 years after the turmoil of the Civil Rights movement, and you have a really compelling story.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Helena

    Following various middle school aged kids during a child snatching murder spree, I related to Octavia the most. Her precious boxes of hammy down clothes from a cousin in another city, not having any friends in middle school, portable trailer classrooms, waiting for her social life to start, and being better friends with a teacher than anyone her own age. This book questions disciplinary methods of parents, looks at the relativity of what it means to have or have not, portrays the nasty realities Following various middle school aged kids during a child snatching murder spree, I related to Octavia the most. Her precious boxes of hammy down clothes from a cousin in another city, not having any friends in middle school, portable trailer classrooms, waiting for her social life to start, and being better friends with a teacher than anyone her own age. This book questions disciplinary methods of parents, looks at the relativity of what it means to have or have not, portrays the nasty realities of middle school vividly, and uses language to drive the story. Here is an insular community that the civil rights movement seems to have barely touched. The white folks, and the cops are not to be trusted. Octavia alone might have a chance to break free.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kimberly

    I love true crime and have read/seen many things dealing with the Atlanta child murders. I listened to it as an audiobook and I felt as though I was transported back in time. I became so invested in the lives of the children that were portrayed in this book. It was so interesting to see how each family dealt with the tragedy, how it affected the children, and how the children were connected, yet came from very different situations. I went through a range of emotions from happy, mad, sad.... Mrs I love true crime and have read/seen many things dealing with the Atlanta child murders. I listened to it as an audiobook and I felt as though I was transported back in time. I became so invested in the lives of the children that were portrayed in this book. It was so interesting to see how each family dealt with the tragedy, how it affected the children, and how the children were connected, yet came from very different situations. I went through a range of emotions from happy, mad, sad.... Mrs. Jones go into my head. I would actually be very interested in reading another book centered on an adult Octavia and how this situation changed the course of her life. I have truly become a fan and can not wait for her new book, Silver Sparrow.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Caroline Faulk

    I hate to admit I was not previously familiar with the Atlanta child murders, and I had to do some homework after finishing this novel. It was a brilliant move of Jones to give voice to elementary-aged children, traumatized after watching classmates go missing. It is absolutely haunting and so so heartbreaking. My favorite storyline (of the 3 Jones includes) is Octavia's, and I wish I could have heard more from her. Each third of the narrative is written in a different point of view (first, seco I hate to admit I was not previously familiar with the Atlanta child murders, and I had to do some homework after finishing this novel. It was a brilliant move of Jones to give voice to elementary-aged children, traumatized after watching classmates go missing. It is absolutely haunting and so so heartbreaking. My favorite storyline (of the 3 Jones includes) is Octavia's, and I wish I could have heard more from her. Each third of the narrative is written in a different point of view (first, second, and third), and the second did not really work for me. It felt forced and awkward. Overall, I think Jones is a brilliant writer, and this book illuminated a tragic piece of American history that ought to be more talked about.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Sezín Koehler

    I chose this book off my shelf because I wanted to read a grown-up book after the horrible series of unfortunate events I've just spent the past month reading. What do I find? The story is narrated by three children, who are going through their own series of unfortunate events. SIGH. That aside, this is a beautifully written and haunting book about the Atlanta Child Murders of the early 80s and the social climate of the time. Incredible. The writing is so vivid I felt more like I was watching a I chose this book off my shelf because I wanted to read a grown-up book after the horrible series of unfortunate events I've just spent the past month reading. What do I find? The story is narrated by three children, who are going through their own series of unfortunate events. SIGH. That aside, this is a beautifully written and haunting book about the Atlanta Child Murders of the early 80s and the social climate of the time. Incredible. The writing is so vivid I felt more like I was watching a movie than reading a book. So worth a read.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    A heartbreaking account of Atlanta's years of terror (that I knew nothing about until this book). Jones really captured the unique and genuine voices of three children, all with their own family and school troubles brilliantly exposed. The only thing I didn't like (a lot) was that Tayari Jones was a character in the book--I understand why, since Jones lived through the terror herself as a child, but it was very jarring and irritating. A heartbreaking account of Atlanta's years of terror (that I knew nothing about until this book). Jones really captured the unique and genuine voices of three children, all with their own family and school troubles brilliantly exposed. The only thing I didn't like (a lot) was that Tayari Jones was a character in the book--I understand why, since Jones lived through the terror herself as a child, but it was very jarring and irritating.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Leslie

    Every blogger/reader has to have a few authors that they champion, that aren't being read enough by their peers. Tayari Jones is that author for me. Why aren't more people reading her books? Why don't more people know her name? READ Tayari Jones! I can't wait for Silver Sparrow. Every blogger/reader has to have a few authors that they champion, that aren't being read enough by their peers. Tayari Jones is that author for me. Why aren't more people reading her books? Why don't more people know her name? READ Tayari Jones! I can't wait for Silver Sparrow.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    Between 1979 and 1981, black children and adults were killed by a serial killer in Atlanta. Tayari Jones grew up in Atlanta during this time, and two of the murdered children were from her elementary school. (hints why she is a character in the novel) Leaving Atlanta focuses on three children in the same fifth grade class at the Oglethorpe Elementary School, Tasha, Ronald and Octavia. While they are not really friends with each other, their lives mesh in certain situations providing seamless tran Between 1979 and 1981, black children and adults were killed by a serial killer in Atlanta. Tayari Jones grew up in Atlanta during this time, and two of the murdered children were from her elementary school. (hints why she is a character in the novel) Leaving Atlanta focuses on three children in the same fifth grade class at the Oglethorpe Elementary School, Tasha, Ronald and Octavia. While they are not really friends with each other, their lives mesh in certain situations providing seamless transition through each of the three parts of the book. Throughout the novel, there is little mention of any details of the actual murders that took place, but instead, we explore the emotional relationships among the children and the effects that the disappearances of their friends have on them and the community. The mixing of different narrative styles was cohesiveness and rhythm of the stories were flawless. Jones really did a wonderful job writing from a child’s perspective, she definitely kept me on the edge of your seat

  30. 4 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    Jones writing is fantastic. She is great at getting into the minds of the children. Sometimes heartbreaking sometimes so silly and naive. I didn’t always care about their lives or kid issues but loved other parts That dealt with bigger more universal issues. A good book but not totally engaging for me. And the true crime tie in helped.

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