The third and final installment of Kwame Mbalia’s Tristan Strong series, Tristan Strong Keeps Punching (Disney Hyperion 2021), was a near perfect conclusion to a story that writes itself in your bones and whispers in your sleep. All three works were five star reads for this bookdragon, and I know had I read this as a tween, it would be a series that would stick with me all the days of my life. It *is* a series that will stick with me all the days of my life. Put this book in little hands – little hands of all the beautiful shades of brown and cream we come in. Let them read.
Tristan Strong Keeps Punching takes place just after the conclusion of the events in Tristan Strong Destroys the World. If you recall, Alke was destroyed and its inhabitants were released into Tristan’s world. The final installment begins with Tristan in New Orleans at a family reunion and juggling the task of finding those from Alke, including his friends. As if the task didn’t already seem insurmountable, who should show up but King Cotton.
While many of the heroes and villains from the prior two novels make appearances, there are also new ones that highlight the tortured history and continued racism and hatred in America. Patty Roller and the theft of children and souls, the chilling danger of Harold and Darla, the meaning behind many of the spirituals… it’s all almost too much for Tristan, our resident storyteller who sees the magic and the trauma, and he is nearly consumed in a fiery rage. Quite literally. His magic boxing gloves burst into flames that he can’t control, and he nearly destroys the world. Again.
Tristan must learn to control and direct his anger and his grief, something he’s struggled with throughout the entire series, if he is ever going to be successful in the facing King Cotton and stopping Patty Roller.
The importance of storytelling and of finding and telling the lost stories is what drew me to Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, and that theme sang loudly through the entire series.
Tell the stories.
Read the stories.
Remember the stories.
And keep punching.