cover image Break This House

Break This House

Candice Iloh. Dutton, $17.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-525-55623-7

In Iloh’s sophomore novel, 16-year-old Yaminah “Minah” Okar, who is Black, has decided to separate her new life living in Brooklyn with her father from the life and family she left behind in Michigan. Since Minah is “done with that side of the family,” she’s surprised to find out that her estranged mother, Sandra, has died of cancer, though anonymous vignettes throughout allude to substance use as the true cause. Hoping for closure, Minah returns to the hometown she’s abandoned to learn more about what happened to her mom, whom she only remembers as some- one who “changed overnight.” But her family’s resentment over Minah’s refusal to communicate with them, and their hesitancy to discuss her mother’s death, forces her to come to terms with the past and face the loss of a mother whom she didn’t understand and was unable to forgive. While dream sequences, flashbacks, and subplots sometimes make the narrative feel disjointed, its characters are self-assured and dynamic, and Minah’s desire to know her mother makes Iloh’s meditation on grief, individuals’ capacity for change, and perseverance of family a thought-provoking read. Ages 14–up. Agent: Patricia Nelson, Marsal Lyon Literary. (May)