cover image Nowhere Special

Nowhere Special

Matt Wallace. HarperCollins/Tegen, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-325400-8

Trauma brings together two 12-year-olds living in a financially compromised desert village in an unflinching novel by Wallace (The Supervillain’s Guide to Being a Fat Kid). After Elpidia’s family house burns down in a fire and her parents are incarcerated for illegal substance use, the events open a rift between the maternal Cahuillan and paternal Peruvian sides of her family. Elpidia is sent to live with her abuela at Lakeshore Estate in Southern California and attends a local school with her Cahuillan cousin, who constantly bullies her. Abuela insists that Elpidia learn to defend herself and signs her up for martial arts classes taught by Filipino American veteran Charlie. There, she meets and befriends schoolmate Stan, bullied for being “fat and white and slow,” who wants to protect himself and his mother from his physically abusive father. Wallace’s succinct middle grade drama considers heavy subjects such as systemic racism, substance reliance, intergenerational trauma, financial precarity, domestic violence, and anti-fat bias. Elpidia and Stan’s affectionate and steadfast relationship, as well as their conversations surrounding wide-eyed dreams for their imagined future together, grants this viscerally told story both levity and hope. Ages 8–12. Agent: DongWon Song, Howard Morhaim Literary. (Oct.)