cover image Paradise on Fire

Paradise on Fire

Jewell Parker Rhodes. Little, Brown, $16.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-49383-3

Inspired by real events, Parker Rhodes (Black Brother, Black Brother) makes her entrée into climate fiction with the story of narrator Adaugo (Addy), a Black 15-year-old from the Bronx. Living with an overwhelming fear of fire after losing her parents to one at the age of four, Addy copes by constantly drawing maps and plotting escape routes in case of emergency. When Addy’s Nigerian Grandma Bibi signs her up for Wilderness Adventures in California, Addy expects to be the odd one out; instead, though, she makes friends and falls in love with nature. But a wildfire soon endangers the woods and the people she has come to cherish, and Addy must count on her maps and newfound survival skills to save everyone she can. Addy’s character-driven narrative offers a broad picture of her motivations—including a post-traumatic mindset that’s focused on survival—yet leaves little room for the explicit development of relationships on which the story’s emotional heft eventually relies. If the negative impact of human activity on the environment sometimes dominates the story, Parker Rhodes believably explores one Black city girl’s discovery of the wilderness around her. Final art not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Sept.)