cover image How to Be a Girl in the World

How to Be a Girl in the World

Caela Carter. Quill Tree, $16.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-267270-4

Eleven-year-old Emma, who is biracial (black/white), lives with her 12-year-old cousin Lydia and her mother, both white, while Emma’s single father is in rehab. When Lydia’s divorced mom buys a large dilapidated Brooklyn house as a surprise for her boyfriend, Jeremy, Lydia hopes that the house will provide magic to protect her from the unwanted attention of male classmates and Jeremy’s discomfiting touches. She’s been battling both by wearing heavy clothes, even in August.But as both Jeremy’s hugs and her classmates’ attentions increase, Lydia wonders if her discomfort is normal, building into tense inner conflict and fears that are well-rendered and relatable. As Lydia grows reticent to trust adults with her concerns, a confession from Emma and an incident at school persuade her to take drastic magical measures to keep both girls safe. The uneasiness Lydia feels with unwanted male attention and peers who suggest that she should covet it sends a powerful message about the male gaze and the importance of individual consent. That message, however, may be occasionally clouded by Carter’s (One Speck of Truth) inclusion of magic as a means of exercising autonomy, which in places dilutes the idea that young people need real-world support to combat genuine problems. Ages 8–12. Agent: Kate McKean, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Aug.)