cover image The Deepest Breath

The Deepest Breath

Meg Grehan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $16.99 (192p) ISBN 978-0-358-35475-8

In spacious verse that mirrors a worried preteen’s breathlessness, Grehan (The Space Between) vibrantly captures the anxious inner landscape of 11-year-old Stevie, an Irish girl missing her estranged father and harboring a secret crush on her friend Chloe. “Knowing things/ Makes me safe,” she declares, a magical-thinking mantra that inspires her to read thick books on marine life. But just as often, she looks to her warm, wise mother for reassurance. Her mum’s words are usually a gift, but they scan as an empty box when she fails to see her daughter’s budding queerness (“She just gave me/ Wrapping paper/ With tape and ribbon and a bow/ But nothing/ Inside”). Though a comforting librarian offers hope to the girl, Grehan effectively depicts the loneliness of growing up in a world where heterocentrism is the default. Small in scope and big in heart and feeling, this novel is a tender portrait of gay early adolescence and a strong mother-daughter attachment. Ages 8–12. [em]Agent: Karyn Fischer, Book Stop Literary. (Feb.) [/em]