cover image The Language of Seabirds

The Language of Seabirds

Will Taylor. Scholastic Press, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-338-75373-8

In an earnestly told novel that traces two liminal weeks in the wake of a parental divorce, gay 12-year-old Jeremy Ryden grapples with learning “environmental adaptability” and speaking his truth. While his can-do mother moves out of their family home, Jeremy spends 14 summer days with his father and uncle at a rental property on Oregon’s Pacific coast. It’s a moment “in between the family before and the family after,” between school years, and between land and sea, and Jeremy hopes to make the most of it, even if he hasn’t been able to come out to his parents. After the tween sees a beautiful boy his age, Evan Sandford, running on the beach, then encounters him in town, the two grow closer, creating a coded language using the names of local birds. While developing feelings for Evan, Jeremy also notices changes in his suddenly testy father’s behavior, including a significant uptick in drinking. Via a leisurely third-person narration that effectively conjures the agony of first texts and the emotional awkwardness of adolescence, Taylor (Maggie & Abby’s Neverending Pillow Fort) writes with vulnerability the conflict of being in-between. Jeremy is of Irish descent; protagonists are white. Ages 8–12. Agent: Brent Taylor, Triada US. (July)