This luscious, unsettling Louisiana horror novella from Wise (Kissing Booth Girl
) boasts a contemporary, living-folklore aesthetic and a powerful message to marginalized people that “Sometimes you have to be scarier than the monsters.” The racist, homophobic bullies who harass Caleb, a young black boy in the small town of Lewis, La., also try to scare him with stories of Catfish John, a murderous devil that lives in the swamp. Caleb’s sheriff father takes him to investigate a fire on the property of secretive Archie Royce and rescues Archie’s strange, pale daughter Cere, “born to end the world”; she becomes Caleb’s ally against the bullies while invading his dreams and pulling him into her supernatural battles against the rest of her family. Wise’s visceral language conveys an experience of eerie magic that simultaneously lures and repels, placed in close juxtaposition to the mundane monstrousness of prejudice, cancer, and loneliness. This story can be appreciated simply for its ghost story shivers and rich imagery, but its full power comes with the author’s choice to center the misunderstood and marginalized as beloved family to one another, even when the outside world sees them as monstrous. Agent: Barry Goldblatt, Barry Goldblatt Literary. (Sept.