cover image Skin & Bones

Skin & Bones

Renée Watson. Little, Brown, $30 (416p) ISBN 978-0-316-57088-6

YA author Watson (Piecing Me Together) makes her adult debut with a heartfelt if heavy-handed exploration of a Black woman’s reckoning with her identity and self-image. Lena, a pastor’s daughter about to turn 40, is engaged to youth minister Malcolm. She’s also a mother to seven-year-old Aaliyah, whom she had with her ex-boyfriend Bryan. Others tell her she’s beautiful, but she struggles to accept herself as a fat person. She finds fulfillment in organizing a series of historical exhibits and lectures about the history of her Black neighborhood, which was built decades earlier in the wake of a disastrous flood and is now encroached upon by gentrification. After she learns Malcolm had lied about remaining celibate while they took a break from dating, she calls off the wedding and reconnects with Bryan. She and her Black women friends face constant microaggressions from thin white people about their race and weight, and she’s determined to equip Aaliyah with the tools to navigate a world that marginalizes women who look like them. Though the lessons Lena imparts to Aaliyah can make the novel feel like an after school special, Watson widens the story’s scope with lyrical prose: “We are the splinter festering in the heart of this city, not easily removed.” Readers will be glad to know Watson’s defiant and loving protagonist. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary. (May)