Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
Monday’s Not Coming tells the story of Claudia, who comes home from a summer away at Gramma’s house to find that her best friend is nowhere to be found. Claudia thought it was strange that Monday didn’t write over the summer (as was their tradition) but she figured there must be a good explanation. She’s disappointed to not see Monday as soon as she gets home but Mom convinces her to be patient since she’ll see her tomorrow on the first day of school. Monday doesn’t show. Claudia questions everyone - teachers, school officials, her parents, classmates; no one knows where Monday is and, even worse, very few people seem to care. Although she is forbidden to venture into Monday’s neighborhood on her own, Claudia goes to Monday’s house to speak with Monday’s mother where she receives aggression and sketchy answers. Claudia doesn’t give up looking for Monday but it seems the rest of the world can’t be bothered. Monday’s Not Coming actually tells the story of how easy it is for a child to disappear when that child is black, from the wrong side of the tracks, and falls through the cracks of the school and social work systems. And it is so tragic. Monday and Claudia’s story makes for a riveting and surprising read. A read that exposes more and more layers the more thought and examination that goes into it.
Since I listened to this book (excellent audiobook, BTW), I didn’t really catch on to the way the author, Tiffany D. Jackson, used time as a factor in her storytelling. It wasn’t until I got my hands on a physical copy of the book so could I prep to write this review that I noticed her technique. Forgive me for going into such detail in describing this technique but I found it fascinating. Even more so because I did not notice it while I was listening to the story. Jackson organizes this story by months. The story begins with September and continues month by month, throughout the school year. Within each month is “The Before” and “The After” and sometimes a “One Year Before the Before” and a “Two Years Before the Before.” Each month opens with a short, poetic description of an upcoming significant character and/or event and takes place in the present day. Each “The After” takes place during Claudia’s 8th grade year without Monday, after she discovers Monday is missing. Each “The Before” takes place during Monday and Claudia’s 7th grade year together, “One Year Before the Before” is 6th grade and so on.
It is clear in the pages that open each month that Monday has been found in the present day but all is not well. In “The Before,” we experience Claudia’s desperate search for Monday. In “The After,” Claudia writes letters to Monday and gets help dealing with Monday’s absence from a new friend (Michael) and dance class where she has been moved up to dance with HS girls. In “Two Years Before the Before,” we see the longtime friendship between Monday and Claudia and how they are really more like sisters than BFFs. It’s the “One Year Before the Before” details that are so hard to swallow. Especially upon reflection, after the reveal of what happened to Monday. In these sections, the reader can see the signs that Monday is most likely being abused and that abuse is becoming more and more troubling. Claudia can’t see what’s right in front of her. She assumes Monday’s frequent absences from school, her emotional distance and frequent rages as evidence of the two of them growing apart. Claudia feels like a baby and she worries Monday is maturing much faster than she. Claudia is a child. Maybe we shouldn’t rely on her to see the signs but instead count on the adults in Monday’s life to do so. So heartbreaking.
Monday’s Not Coming is required reading. Jackson’s writing is complex and layered (it’s my first Tiffany D. Jackson book; it will not be my last) and anyone with an appreciation for literature should read it but it’s the story that makes it required reading, especially for anyone who works with or interacts with children and/or young adults.