cover image Man o’ War

Man o’ War

Cory McCarthy. Dutton, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-5933-5370-7

Trans nonbinary swimmer River McIntyre, who is Irish and Arab American, is a high school sophomore when a chance encounter with white, agender former classmate Indigo “Indy” Waits, at their Ohio hometown’s aquarium, causes River to fall “out of the closet, literally into a shark tank.” Over the next several years, River navigates dysphoria, internalized queerphobia, and their swim coach’s bigotry, all while feeling disconnected from their Lebanese heritage due to their mother’s trauma from post-9/11 racism. As self-accepting Indy helps River on their journey of self-discovery, the two develop a romantic relationship that’s as complicated as it is tender. Multiple time jumps, some spanning years (the story follows River into adulthood), interrupt the book’s flow at points, rendering important relational developments off-page. But in River’s memorable voice, McCarthy (Once and Future) strikes a balance between piercing wit and aching vulnerability, while River’s interest in sea life provides a compelling, complex metaphor for their own fluid gender identity. The result is a thoughtful, nuanced exploration of what it’s like to feel trapped—and how to make it out. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (May)