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61 pages 2 hours read

Tiffany D. Jackson

The Weight of Blood

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2022

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Summary and Study Guide

Overview

The Weight of Blood (2022) is a young adult horror novel by Tiffany D. Jackson. Drawing inspiration from Stephen King’s Carrie, the novel features a biracial teenage girl with magical powers whose years of abuse from her father and bullying from her peers lead to disastrous consequences. Jackson updates the setting to 2014 Georgia, at a rural high school’s first racially integrated prom. The novel explores the horrific dangers of bullying, child abuse, and systemic racism, as well as the potential for redemption and change.

This guide refers to the hardcover edition published by Katherine Tegen Books in 2022.

Content Warning: The Weight of Blood and this guide refer to violence, abuse, murder, bullying, and racism. The Weight of Blood also contains racist and outdated language, some of which is quoted in the Important Quotes section of this guide.

Plot Summary

The novel alternates between the present day, when some podcast hosts are investigating a tragic prom night, and 2014, when the violence occurred. According to witnesses, Maddy, a biracial teenager with telekinetic powers, killed more than 200 people at Springville High’s first racially integrated prom in rural Georgia.

In 2014, a month before prom, Maddy’s secret biracial identity is revealed when sudden rain returns her carefully combed hair to its natural curly state while the students run outside during gym class. Her abusive white father, Thomas, forced her to pass as white for years, but now her racial identity has been exposed. Immediately, other students bully Maddy and specifically mock her hair, throwing pencils into her voluminous curls. Maddy’s telekinetic powers kick into gear involuntarily, moving furniture and convincing the adults there’s been an earthquake. The history teacher, Mrs. Morgan, alerts the principal of the racialized bullying, and Maddy is removed from her classroom while the main bullies, Jules and Wendy, face no repercussions. Soon, a video of the bullying goes viral, and the students fall under scrutiny. Wendy is dating a popular Black football player named Kenny, who expresses some distaste about the pencil throwing, despite usually not speaking up about racism and being the only Black person in their clique.

Maddy’s father is furious she’s been outed as biracial and demands she pray to be like the white women whose photographs he’s pasted in her locked prayer closet. He fixes Maddy’s hair using a hot comb while quizzing her about American history (some of which he’s taught her the wrong answers to) and burning her if she gives an answer he doesn’t like.

Wendy starts to worry about her damaged reputation and suggests integrating prom to make it look like the school isn’t racist. The class votes on it, but some white parents have already paid for a white-only prom, so now there will be one white prom and one integrated prom. At a senior week rally, Jules dresses in blackface and an afro and claims she’s Maddy; when the news of the incident goes viral and her college acceptance is revoked, she blames Maddy for ruining her life. Kenny’s sister, Kali, plans to hold a protest outside the white-only prom. Both Kenny and Wendy end their friendships with Jules.

Maddy practices her telekinetic abilities and finds her mother’s journal. Her dad said her mom died in childbirth, but the journal suggests otherwise and also that Maddy shouldn’t listen to her father’s “advice” or else she might lose control of her dangerous powers. Wendy convinces Kenny to take Maddy to prom as a publicity stunt. Maddy doesn’t really want to go, but Kenny, the first person to be kind to her, convinces her. Maddy starts learning about real history and her supposed telekinetic powers from the internet. Kenny takes Maddy to Dairy Queen to get to know her better, and they enjoy each other’s company and feel they can be honest and open. Kenny is under a lot of pressure to act a certain way and become famous, but all he wants is intellectual freedom and peaceful love. Papa slaps Maddy for going on a date with a Black boy. Jules and her boyfriend, Brady, steal some paint to use in a racist prank at prom. Papa discovers Maddy’s powers and asks her to leave the house, but she won’t. Maddy and Kenny hang out a few more times and develop their connection, but Kenny still doesn’t break up with Wendy.

On prom night, Kenny picks Maddy up, although Maddy has to use magic powers secretly to restrain her father. Kenny wants to marry Maddy and bring her to college with him, where he’ll play football until he joins a professional team and can build a house and a lake for Maddy. They dance, chat, and have a great time. They vote for themselves as prom king and queen, but when they win, they get onstage and Jules drenches Maddy with white paint in another racist prank. She and Brady leave, running past the protesters outside. Kenny drags Maddy out and demands the protesters and police officers look at what they did to Maddy. An officer tells Kenny to go home, but he won’t. When someone trips into Kenny, Kenny trips into the officer, who then beats him unconscious. Maddy thinks Kenny is dead, and her powers take over, killing and injuring most of the officers. She then enters the white prom, where Jules and Brady have gone. She tries to kill Jules but ends up killing everyone except for Jules. Also, other random people nearby die as well. She goes back outside, and people shoot at her, so she derails a train to run most of them over. She then walks toward home, burning her father’s antique store, her house, and anyone who tries to get in her way. At home, Papa tries to murder her, but she kills him instead. Wendy then arrives and helps Maddy flee the town so she can move to South Carolina and live with her mom. Kenny also escapes the hospital and presumably goes to be with Maddy because that’s what he said he wanted. Now, Springville is a ghost town because most of it burned, and people have lost their jobs due to the power plant closing.

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