cover image This Book Won’t Burn

This Book Won’t Burn

Samira Ahmed. Little, Brown, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-3165-4784-0

Book banning, homophobia, and racism intersect as a newcomer confronts one small town’s “fascist BS” culture. Halfway through senior year, 18-year-old Chicagoan Noor Khan is devastated when her immigration-lawyer father “torched our lives” by abandoning the family. Their distraught mother moves Noor and her younger sister to conservative, rural Bayberry, Ill., for a fresh start. At Noor’s new, overwhelmingly white high school, a zealous school board led by politician Steve Hawley removes hundreds of books deemed pornographic. Activist-minded Noor notes that “they’re censoring practically all queer or BIPOC authors” and stages lunchtime banned book readings at a nearby park with new friends Faiz and Juniper. Though school administration disciplines Noor and hints at violence if she doesn’t comply, she continues hosting her book club in the evenings at a VFW hall until someone tossing a Molotov cocktail through the building’s window escalates events. Meanwhile, Noor’s growing feelings for Faiz are complicated by interest from charming, wealthy, and good-looking Andrew, who turns out to be Hawley’s stepson. Characters display resolute integrity and deliver dialogue that zings in this timely offering by Ahmed (the Amira & Hamza series), who employs high stakes, increasing tensions, romantic near-misses, and adult hypocrisy to powerful effect. Noor cues as Southeast Asian. Ages 12–up. (May)