cover image A Game of Fox & Squirrels

A Game of Fox & Squirrels

Jenn Reese. Holt, $16.99 (224p) ISBN 978-1-250-24301-0

Reese (the Above World series) sketches a poignant fantastical allegory focusing on the desperate tolls exacted by mental and physical abuse. When their father breaks Caitlin’s arm, 13-year-old Caitlin and her 11-year-old sister, Samantha, are relocated from their parents’ Los Angeles home to rural Oregon, where they will stay indefinitely with their estranged paternal aunt, Vicky, and Vicky’s wife, Hannah. Despite the impossible rules and systems that she and Caitlin have grown up navigating, Sam can’t understand why they have to “visit” Oregon; her favorite books have taught her that “heroes always [go] home.” After receiving the titular card game from Aunt Vicky, Sam is surprised when a wily fox named Ashander, as well as his emissaries, three friendly anthropomorphic squirrels, appear, offering her heart’s desire—for a steep price. Yet Oregon isn’t horrible, and Sam must decide whether fulfilling the fox’s escalating ultimatums is worth disrupting the stable, love-filled life Caitlin and Sam are settling into. The accessible narrative presents generational trauma and its echoes unflinchingly, encouraging readers in similar situations to seek community and help from trusted adults. An author’s note leads to a website with resources; final art not seen by PW. Ages 10–14. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (Apr.)