cover image Beetle & the Hollowbones

Beetle & the Hollowbones

Aliza Layne. Atheneum, $21.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-5344-4154-5

Though Beetle’s formidable grandmother has long taught her goblin magic at home—all bones, potions, and ancient family practices—the green-eared girl yearns for and idolizes sorcery, which society deems the more powerful craft. It’s also the power that Beetle’s childhood best friend—skeletal, undead Kat Hollowbone—has cultivated at prestigious schools. When Kat returns to take up an apprenticeship with her emotionally abusive aunt Marla, much has changed: neither girl writes fan fiction or role-plays anymore, and Beetle’s closest friend is now Blob Ghost, a nonbinary spirit haunting and bound to a local mall. As Marla seeks to demolish the mall to reclaim the Hollowbones’ ancestral estate, Beetle and Kat reconnect and work together to free Blob Ghost. Solid character work by debut creator Layne slowly builds themes of outgrown childhood friendship, cultural difference, consent, and queer romance that highlight the lush world she’s created. A saturated palette that changes and brightens amid strong shows of power, and resonant interpersonal elements—including Beetle’s bond with her grandmother—work in harmonious tandem to deliver a stalwart story of magic, witches, and the mall. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Susan Graham, Einstein Literary. (Aug.) [/em]