cover image Zenobia July

Zenobia July

Lisa Bunker. Viking, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-451-47940-2

It’s a year of big changes for Zenobia July. After her father died in what is being called a hunting accident (her mother passed away when she was small), she has moved from Arizona to Portland, Maine, to live with Aunts Phil and Lucy—a quirky couple with a diverse friend group, including the larger-than-life drag queen “Sprinkles.” She’s also starting school for the first time as a trans girl. Zen bonds with the middle school’s band of “orphan misfits,” which includes genderqueer Arli, Congolese immigrant Chantal, and new kid Elijah, who is eventually outed as trans. But even with the support and love of her aunts, she wrestles daily with the person she sees in the mirror. A boost of self-confidence comes when Zen, a talented hacker, uses her skills to help the school discover who is posting anti-Muslim and transphobic smears to the school website. Bunker (Felix Yz) brings considerable empathy and skill to her authentic, nuanced portrayal, balancing Zen’s darker moments with humor. Though Zen is haunted by self-doubt and anxiety, she’s bolstered by the kindness and acceptance of her friends and new family. Brief interludes by those in Zenobia’s orbit add perspective. An accessible and relatable story for anyone who is struggling to fit in. Ages 10–up. [em](May) [/em]