cover image Ode to My First Car

Ode to My First Car

Robin Gow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $20.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-3743-8843-0

Bisexual 17-year-old Claire Kemp’s summer plans—escaping her family’s cramped apartment in Trappe, Pa., to hang out with her transgender best friend and secret crush Sophia—are dashed when she totals Lars, her beloved first car. To pay off fines from the crash, she starts working at a local nursing home, where she meets 85-year-old lesbian Lena. As Lena recounts stories from her own past that help Claire feel more confident in her queerness, Claire begins dating classmate Pen. She hopes that their budding romance will lead to her much-anticipated “sexual debut” and also help her get over her feelings for Sophia. But Sophia’s own new relationship with a controlling boy means she has less time for Claire, causing their friendship to fray. Meanwhile, familial conflicts surrounding whether or not Claire and her brother Chris, who is gay, should come out to their parents put a damper on Claire’s summer. Gow (Dear Mothman) thoughtfully unpacks a variety of issues, including economic anxiety, guilt, and identity exploration via empathetic verse poems narrated by Claire to Lars. Though its many through lines don’t always cohere, this is a sweet, encouraging read with a big heart. Major characters read as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary. (June)