cover image The King Is Dead

The King Is Dead

Benjamin Dean. Little, Brown, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978‑0‑316-51914‑4

Closeted 17-year-old James becomes the U.K.’s first Black monarch following his white father’s death in Dean’s propulsive debut. To preserve his family’s legacy and continue protecting his Black mother and younger twin brother from the media’s vitriol, James feels like he must prove himself worthy of the crown, despite the fact that he knows the people will “sure as hell not want a Black teenager” as king. But the press is out for blood, analyzing his every move and looking for any perceived misstep to print in the tabloids, which further deteriorates his confidence and approval ratings. James’s new station also jeopardizes his undisclosed relationship with brown-skinned 18-year-old palace intern Jonathan, a scenario that gets even worse when Jonathan goes missing and royal family secrets begin leaking to the press. With a possible spy in his midst, James must determine whom he can trust among the people he’s known his entire life. Dean delivers a pulse-pounding thriller and searing romance that excels in its portrayal of James’s struggle to balance vicious social politics, storied palace traditions, and vulnerable interpersonal conflict, all while shouldering the responsibility of an entire nation, making for a multilayered and unmissable read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Chloe Seager, Madeleine Milburn Literary. (July)

Correction: This review has been updated to reflect a character’s skin tone.