cover image Queen of Secrets

Queen of Secrets

Jenny Meyerhoff, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-32628-9

Loosely based on the Book of Esther, Meyerhoff's (Third Grade Baby) poignant coming-of-age story chronicles the challenges that 15-year-old Essie, a newly minted cheerleader, faces as she seeks to understand her personal and religious identity in the context of a suburban Michigan public school community. Orphaned as a toddler and raised by her grandparents in a secular household, where topics related to her parents' deaths remain off-limits and each step she takes toward independence inspires her grandmother's fear, Essie learns to avoid questions and keep secrets. When her cousin Micah and his parents return to town after a decade's unexplained absence, their reappearance unsettles Essie's home and school life. While intrigued by her introduction to Shabbat and other Jewish holidays, Essie's uncertainty about how her football-player boyfriend might respond to knowing that the new observant Jews in town are her relatives leads to more complicated deceptions. Eventually, a wrenching dilemma proves to be a test of character. Compelling characters, dramatic tension, and thoughtful exploration of how teenagers create their own identity amid familial and cultural influences should give this story wide appeal. Ages 12–up. (July)