cover image The Meadows

The Meadows

Stephanie Oakes. Dial, $20.99 (448p) ISBN 978-0-5931-1148-2

Fourteen-year-old Eleanor Arbuck feels isolated in the seaside town where she lives with her emotionally distant mother, so she’s excited to attend the Meadows, a school for the country’s “best and brightest.” Once there, however, she discovers that her education involves performing toxic, government-enforced gender roles (“The Meadows will teach you to become women, as women are meant to be,” her instructors assert). Four years later, Eleanor is experiencing panic attacks and mourns Rose, the deceased girl she loved at the Meadows, while working a job monitoring “reformed” gay, bisexual, and transgender people living in a civilization that bans queerness. She quietly pushes back by fabricating her reports. Her world soon upends when she learns that Rose might be alive. Oakes (The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly) employs evocative prose and worldbuilding shot through with equal parts melancholy and hope to craft an intelligent dystopian tale that proves a biting interpretation of contemporary issues surrounding conversion therapy, homo-phobia, misogyny, and racism. Includes an author’s note, resources, and a content note referencing an instance of suicide. Eleanor is white; the supporting cast is racially diverse. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer Laughran, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)