Pride Reads: “Kings of B’more” by R. Eric Thomas

Kings of B'more
“Kings of B’More” by R. Eric Thomas

Our Pride Reads series continues with Kings of B’More by R. Eric Thomas, a fun romp through Baltimore as two Black, gay best friends strengthen their bond.

Kings of B’More by R. Eric Thomas focuses on two young, Black, gay boys living in Baltimore. Harrison is in love with theater, while Linus finds himself drawn to history. When Linus tells Harrison that he is moving to South Carolina, Harrison is devastated. Spurred on by seeing Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Harrison plans out an elaborate last day for Linus, which he calls “Ferris Day,” in an attempt to prevent the two from growing apart after the move. What follows is an elaborate day of adventures and self-discovery, though Harrison’s plan doesn’t quite go as he intended.

I was drawn to this book mostly because it hits close to home, or more specifically, about a forty-minute drive from home. I grew up going to Baltimore nearly as much as I did Washington, DC, mostly going to Baltimore Orioles games and the museums of the Inner Harbor. Though I don’t have the perspective of someone living in Baltimore, particularly the perspective of a Black person, I enjoyed the familiarity of many of the landmarks featured in the story while getting to see a new side of Baltimore from a native’s perspective.

Though the story is inspired by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the story also provides commentary on the challenges of trying to pull a day like that off. The modern technology of phone trackers makes the endeavor nearly impossible. In addition, “Ferris Day” for two Black, gay boys is radically different and comes with challenges that Ferris Bueller never had to face. In particular, an early instance of a white man assuming that Harrison is causing trouble in a museum despite no evidence provides a commentary on how Black men are scrutinized far more than others.

The points of view of both Harrison and Linus drive the story, and both are fully fleshed out in the narrative. Harrison’s point of view contains many references to Broadway shows while Linus provides interesting historical anecdotes throughout the story. Linus’ struggle with being forced to leave his life behind and Harrison’s struggle with potentially growing apart from Linus are both compelling. The adventures that they go on also allow them to grow as individuals in addition to strengthening their bond.

Despite the differences between Harrison and Linus, it’s easy to see why their bond is so strong. They are able to communicate with each other with a single look throughout the story. Their friendship is powerful despite not being romantic and is the story’s biggest strength. The depiction of a healthy platonic relationship between two gay boys is highly valuable for readers who are struggling with their own identities.

The supporting cast is also interesting, particularly one of Harrison’s friends named Aparna. She is the stage manager of both their high school theater as well as “Ferris Day.” Her commentary on the day, formatted as stage notes, breaks up the main action in an interesting way. Harrison’s sister Corrine is also amusing, particularly as she seems to keep running into Harrison and Linus.

In addition to the city of Baltimore (and a brief appearance of Washington, DC), the main setting of the story is Pride. Harrison and Linus end up attending their first Pride, and it ends up being a moment of self-discovery for both Harrison and Linus. The depiction of Pride as a safe and welcoming place for members of the community is an important rite of passage and it is no different in this story as both Harrison and Linus find themselves fitting into the community.

On the surface, Kings of B’more is a fun adventure through Baltimore, with a brief stop in Washington, DC, that is inspired by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Digging deeper, it’s a platonic love story between two boys that find a community with each other and in the confines of the queer community. Though Harrison’s original plan goes awry, the adventure that the two ultimately take ends up being even better than either imagined.

Kings of B’More is published by Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House, LLC, and is available now.

Check out more of our Pride Reads here.

Author: Jessica Wolff

Jessica Wolff is a graduate of Drexel University with a BS in Film/Video. She has a passion for entertainment and representation in entertainment. She currently resides outside of Washington, DC.

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