cover image The Next Queen of Heaven

The Next Queen of Heaven

Gregory Maguire, Harper, $14.99 paper (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-199779-2

Maguire, who made a name for himself with bestselling fantasy books like Wicked, delivers a sharp, funny, and provocative dual coming-of-age story set in 1999 upstate New York, focusing on obnoxious 17-year-old Tabitha Scales, and Jeremy Carr, a musician and director of the local Catholic church choir. Tabitha becomes the caretaker of her devoutly Protestant mother, Leontina, after she takes a nasty bump on the head and transforms into a foul-mouthed, helpless stranger. Jeremy, meanwhile, hopes an upcoming music gig in New York City will give him what it takes to leave Thebes—and former flame Willem Handelaers, now happily married with children—in the past. Jeremy's longing for Willem is heartbreakingly conveyed, as is Tabitha's rushed maturity and yearning for a man she later learns is engaged to a woman in Jeremy's choir. In conversations and their inner lives, Maguire's characters philosophize about faith, religion, acceptance, and desire in a way that never feels forced or preachy, and though cutesy at times, Maguire's humor buoys the darker story lines and keeps this winning story on track. (Oct.)