cover image The Insiders

The Insiders

Mark Oshiro. HarperCollins, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-063-00810-6

Injecting a contemporary story of middle school cliques with magical realism, Oshiro’s (Each of Us a Desert) gentle, imaginative novel drops 12-year-old Héctor Muñoz, a gay theater kid of Mexican descent from San Francisco, into an inland suburb where his family moves for his mother’s new teaching job. Targeted by Mike, a white kid who declares that being gay is “so... gay,” Héctor takes refuge in a janitor’s closet that seems to appear whenever he needs it. He soon finds that the room is a sort of pocket dimension; it not only roves, but also morphs to meet the needs of anyone drawn there from their own school—including Juliana Chin, a hot-tempered, gay Black and Chinese girl in Charleston, and Sal Ocampo, a quiet nonbinary Filipino and white kid outside Phoenix. Oshiro literalizes every middle school kid’s dream of occasionally disappearing, while investigating the idea of safe spaces and, eventually, brave ones, as the three Roomies venture into their respective schools to navigate their specific difficulties. Starring an assured queer protagonist who turns his flair for drama into a means of helping others, and a number of supportive adults, Oshiro’s intersectional saga conveys a strong message about letting go of secrets and, with help from loved ones, reclaiming space. Ages 8–12. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Sept.)