cover image Monstrous


Jessica Lewis. Delacorte, $12.99 paper (432p) ISBN 978-0-5934-3481-9

In this wildly inventive paranormal horror novel by Lewis (Bad Witch Burning), gay Black 18-year-old Latavia Johnson is spending the summer in Sanctum, Ala., with her aunt before her freshman year at the University of Georgia. Latavia has only been there for six weeks; in that time, she’s attended three closed-casket funerals, all for community members who died suddenly under mysterious circumstances. With just a few weeks to go before school begins, Latavia is determined to stay out of trouble by following Auntie’s occasionally grating rules: don’t stay out after dark, and never enter Red Wood, the eerie local forest. But trouble finds her when a group of townspeople restrain her to a stone altar in the woods to be sacrificed to an unknown monster. A giant talking snake appears, and Latavia strikes a deal—she will help him overcome magical barriers that prevent him from wreaking havoc on the town if he agrees to destroy those who tried to sacrifice her. Latavia and the serpent’s darkly humorous banter depicts the duo as an oddball pair; combined with the protagonist’s blossoming romance with a white teenage resident, Lewis provides elevating levity to the outlandish—and captivating—premise. Ages 14–up. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Sept.)