Raven Leilani

fiction contemporary
dark emotional reflective medium-paced

240 pages | first published 2020

Sharp, comic, disruptive, tender, Raven Leilani's debut novel, Luster, sees a young black woman fall into art and someone else's open marriage

Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She's also, secretly, haltingly figuring her way into life as an artist. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules. As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren't hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and falling into Eric's family life, his home. She becomes hesitant friend to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie is the only black woman young Akila may know.

Razor sharp, darkly comic, sexually charged, socially disruptive, Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make her sense of her life in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

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dark 76%
emotional 56%
reflective 55%
challenging 43%
sad 33%
tense 30%
funny 26%
mysterious 5%
adventurous 3%
hopeful 2%
informative 1%
inspiring 1%
lighthearted 0%
relaxing 0%


medium 57%
slow 22%
fast 20%

Plot- or character-driven?

Character: 87% | A mix: 10% | Plot: 1% | N/A: 0%

Strong character development?

Yes: 45% | It's complicated: 40% | No: 14% | N/A: 0%

Loveable characters?

It's complicated: 45% | No: 40% | Yes: 13% | N/A: 0%

Diverse cast of characters?

Yes: 90% | It's complicated: 6% | No: 2% | N/A: 0%

Flaws of characters a main focus?

Yes: 96% | It's complicated: 2% | No: 0%

Average rating