cover image This Place Is Still Beautiful

This Place Is Still Beautiful

XiXi Tian. HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-308602-9

Tian’s tender debut centers the estranged, stormy, evolving sisterhood of Annalie and Margaret Flanagan following a racist incident. The Flanagan siblings are nothing alike: 17-year-old white-passing Annalie is a sweet, insecure people-pleasing high school student; 19-year-old Margaret, who resembles their Chinese immigrant mother, is an assertive aspiring lawyer in N.Y.C. Raised by Mama after their white father abandoned them years ago, the sisters’ already tense relationship worsens when their family home is vandalized with a racial slur, prompting Margaret to leave her internship in the city and return to Illinois. The sisters disagree on how to move forward. Annalie wants to respect Mama’s wishes and wait for the event to blow over. Margaret, angry at the family’s seeming indifference, begins her own investigation, much to the discomfort of their predominantly white hometown. Their summer spirals as the sisters’ resentment boils over, and when footage of the crime is found, Annalie is torn between seeking reparations and maintaining their town’s relative, if precarious, peace. Tian simultaneously addresses racism’s lasting effects on individual lives while eloquently tackling the uncertainty that teens can face in transitional periods. Told in alternating perspectives, this emotionally layered novel, populated by nuanced characters and culminating in complex resolutions, resonates. Ages 13–up. Agent: Wendy Gu, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (June)