cover image Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

Tim Te Maro and the Subterranean Heartsick Blues

H.S. Valley. Hardie Grant, $12.99 paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-76050-875-3

Despite claiming to dislike each other, senior classmates agree to work together on a class project to get back at their exes in this lightly magical rom-com. At New Zealand’s Fox Glacier High School for the Magically Adept, the classic home economics assignment involves caring for an enchanted golden egg that responds to the caretaker’s emotions, forcing Tim Te Maro, who is biracial (Ma¯ori and white), and Elliot Parker, who is white, to get along for the sake of a smooth project. As the teens spend more time together, a genuine attraction develops, leading to a friends-with-benefits agreement for the duration of the assignment, and to romantic shenanigans that are by turns awkward and joyful. Sex, sexuality, and its various realities—including anxiety, boundaries, and consent—are discussed openly and honestly, and the characters’ myriad relationship dramas are portrayed using good-humored dialogue. The racially diverse cast and the worldbuilding surrounding the magic system—characters’ powers seem to draw from specific cultural aspects, as when Tim explains that his “Pacific magic,” or magic rooted in his Ma¯ori heritage, is useful for summoning animals—provide a unique backdrop for Kiwi author Valley’s witty and buoyant debut. Ages 14–up. (Feb.)