cover image Jawbreaker


Christina Wyman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-38969-7; $9.99 paper ISBN 978-1-250-33102-1

Smile meets Wonder in Wyman’s affirming debut, a South Brooklyn–set novel that probes the intersection between bullying and orthodontia through the eyes of Maximillia “Max” Audrina Plink, a 12-year-old of Italian descent. Nicknamed “Bucky Beaver” and otherwise taunted by cruel classmates, aspiring journalist Max loathes her splayed teeth, severe overbite, and jaws that “fit together like mismatched puzzle pieces.” Her Class II malocclusion’s painful, costly treatment—braces, headgear (which Max dubs “the jawbreaker”), and possible surgery—strains the family’s already lean finances and triggers harassment from Max’s sister. As Max navigates friendships, feuding parents, a father who increasingly smells of alcohol, and a journalism competition that requires a video essay, she slowly gains the courage to speak up for herself—and against academic inequities, bullying, and intergenerational trauma. Portraying complex social concepts with nuance, Max’s candid, accessible first-person narration propels her growing pains and journey toward empowerment, leading to a hopeful conclusion emphasizing the idea that “no one should have to look perfect just to be treated well.” An author’s note discusses the story’s personal roots. Secondary characters suggest the presence of racial diversity. Ages 8–12. Agent: Erin Murphy, Erin Murphy Literary. (Oct.)