Monday Charles was a girl who should have immediately been labeled as ‘Critically Missing,’ and yet, throughout Tiffany D. Jackson’s heartbreaking novel, very few adults ever dedicate the time to earnestly locating her. That task falls to Claudia the fourteen year-old protagonist of Monday’s Not Coming. All Claudia wants is to find her best friend and know that she’s safe, but that task is filled with more obstacles than she could possibly comprehend. There are her parents, who are more interested in politeness than asking the hard questions. There are uninterested police officers and teachers, who don’t seem to care that Monday would never disappear for so long if she were alright. There’s even Monday’s own family in Claudia’s way as they refuse to tell Claudia was could have possibly happened to her best friend. For the most part, Claudia is alone in her search; in a city that should have more than enough resources to find Monday Charles, Claudia is her best defense.
In a blogpost for Epic Read’s “Real Talk” blog series, Tiffany D. Jackson discusses the disparity between how the news cycle treats the disappearances of white children versus children of color, especially those of black children.1 White children receive far more coverage, she states, than black children do, which wastes precious time for finding black missing children. While white children are assumed to be critically missing (i.e. victims of kidnapping or foul play), black children are assumed to be runaways who will eventually turn up or return home in time, which makes them much harder to find than their peers once they are recognized to be in danger. Claudia runs up against this same problem while trying to find Monday. A detective disregards her concerns because he believes Monday has probably run away, and Claudia receives no help from the police at all. Even as the months stretch on, the public ambivalence toward Monday’s whereabouts remains a theme of the story.
In her post, Jackson mentions that she handed in a draft of Monday’s Not Coming a week before the #MissingDCGirls campaign went viral. The campaign centered on a claim that fourteen black girls from D.C. had gone missing in twenty-four hours. The claim turned out to be false, but the urgency it created was not misplaced.2 Its falsity did not change the fact that too many black girls were going missing while their disappearances garnered a paucity of media attention. #MissingDCGirls exposed a heartbreaking reality, one that Jackson captured perfectly through Monday Charles, herself a missing D.C. girl. Nor did its falsity change the fact that many missing girls in D.C. felt they had reason to leave home, if they were runaways. From cramped living conditions to abuse, many of these girls faced issues they should have had more help facing. Jackson does not ignore this either; it’s clear she did her research in creating Monday’s character and background, and it makes the story all the more compelling to read.
In honesty, though I would absolutely recommend it to others, this book was painful to read. For all the reasons mentioned above, it hurt to keep going, but it also hurt to read Jackson’s beautifully accurate depiction of a desperate fourteen year-old. At times I found myself growing frustrated with Claudia; issues that seemed so simple to me were problems for her. I had to remember that this was an adolescent girl thrown into a nightmare where few people were willing to help her. Claudia isn’t a hero; she’s not specially equipped to deal with this situation. In fact, she’s woefully under equipped both in resources and even discernment and maturity. Following her as she stumbled along, at times making brutally poor decisions, broke my heart. At no point did I ever find it to not be compelling or unrealistic, though. Monday’s Not Coming is not a sob story; moments of joy and love temper the sorrowful parts. Saying this, though, the parts that cause grief come harder and harder as Claudia’s story progresses. Jackson has not given us a happy story by any means, but she has given us an important one, so that we might go and find the Monday Charles’s in America.
1Jackson, Tiffany D. “Real Talk: Why Aren’t Missing Black and Brown Children a National Priority?” Epic Reads, 12 June 2018, www.epicreads.com/blog/real-talk-missing-black-children/.
2 Dwyer, Colin. “D.C.’s Missing Teens: A False Number That Spurred A Real Conversation On Race.” NPR, NPR, 27 Mar. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/03/27/521655564/d-c-s-missing-teens-a-false-number-that-spurred-a-real-conversation-on-race.