cover image Kween


Vichet Chum. Quill Tree, $19.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-0632-2335-6

Sixteen-year-old Soma Kear, a queer Cambodian American poet living in Lowell, Mass., is struggling to deal with significant familial challenges. After decades living in the U.S., Ba has been deported to Phnom Penh, and Ma keeps extending her visit with him without explanation. On top of that, Soma’s much older sister Dahvy, a Lowell High School teacher, is acting as a bossy second mother since moving back home to care for Soma. Communicating with Ba hurts too much, but when he sends an email that strikes a nerve, Soma unloads her frustrations via a free-form poetry video, which she posts—and which goes viral, prompting her Cambo best friend Sophat to convince her to enter the annual Jack Kerouac Poetry Competition. As Soma prepares for the contest, she navigates a contentious relationship with a Cambo peer, crushes on gorgeous Black classmate Britney, and dreads fulfilling her responsibilities as maid of honor at Dahvy’s upcoming wedding. In this smart and edgy debut, Chum, per an author’s note, gives Soma space to be “clumsy, complex, and, yes, contradictory at times,” channeling a protagonist whose uncertainty in the face of her future and the model minority myth feels fresh and radical. Via Soma’s sharp, first-person voice, Chum mixes humorous insights with forthright interrogations of colonialism, immigration, and racism. Ages 13–and up. [em](Oct.) [/em]