cover image Zyla & Kai

Zyla & Kai

Kristina Forest. Kokila, $19.99 (480p) ISBN 978-0-593-40724-0

Black 17-year-olds and southern New Jerseyans Zyla Matthews and Kai Jones are polar opposites. Zyla, who doesn’t date to avoid repeating her now-divorced parents’ mistakes, is singularly focused on her dream of studying fashion abroad; hopeless romantic Kai plans on attending Morehouse College while steering clear of his capricious ex-girlfriend. After getting paired up at their amusement park jobs, Zyla initially rejects Kai’s advances—and though Kai himself is forbidden to date until graduation after an incident with his ex, the teens easily shift from friends to lovers, embarking on a whirlwind romance before mysteriously breaking up a few months later. Their classmates and families are soon shocked to learn that, while on their senior trip to the Poconos, the two have supposedly run away together. Using alternating past and present narratives, Forest (Now That I’ve Found You) artfully blends Zyla and Kai’s story of star-crossed lovers with the slowly unfurling mystery of their departure. Populated by a compassionate, fully fleshed-out cast, variously queer characters, and depictions of loving blended Black families, this joyous novel excels in its heartfelt portrayals of open communication, mental health prioritization, devastating heartbreak, and tender first love. Ages 12–up. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (June)