cover image Angel & Hannah

Angel & Hannah

Ishle Yi Park. One World, $18 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-13432-0

Poet Park (The Temperature of This Water) reimagines Romeo & Juliet in her wrenching debut novel in verse, set in early 1990s New York City. The story follows two 16-year-olds: Queens girl Hannah, the daughter of Korean immigrants and a straight-A student who spends her nights defending her mother from Hannah’s father’s physical abuse, and Angel, a boy of Puerto Rican descent who lives in Brooklyn and dreams of becoming a pilot. After meeting in the spring at a Queens quinceañera, the two quickly fall in love, and resolve to preserve their bond and defend it from the judgments of their parents and respective communities. By summer break, Hannah’s parents disown her over the relationship and she moves into a cramped Bushwick apartment with Angel. Hannah’s ethnic and family background is given somewhat richer, more nuanced descriptions than Angel’s, but Park’s precise, vivid verse lends a unifying consistency, blending vernacular and poetic expressions and song lyrics (“He sighs & sings a Nas lyric—like a blue smoke ~ ring, it halos the air”) as she explores how the complicated natures of love, betrayal, poverty, and cultural identity affect Angel and Hannah’s relationship. Readers will find this tender and realistic portrait of first love hard to forget. Agent: Clare Mao, Europa Content. (May)