cover image Every Bird a Prince

Every Bird a Prince

Jenn Reese. Holt, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-250-78344-8

Reese’s (A Game of Fox and Squirrels) contemplative contemporary fantasy delicately addresses middle school fears and social anxieties alongside one Oregon adolescent’s exploration of sexuality. When white seventh grader Eren Evers’s boy-crazy best friends, Black science enthusiast Jessie and white theater kid Kayla, pressure her to reveal her crush, Eren names popular Latinx athlete Alex Ruiz, even though the whole idea of crushes makes her ill at ease. But when the bird princes of the magical Resplendent Nest recruit Eren and Alex as their champions in a fight against the wolflike frostfangs, which feed on doubt and have already conquered other animal kingdoms, the two develop a close friendship. To counter the frostfangs, the duo must discover their inner truths, which for Eren come closest when she rides her beloved bike through the woods, and for Alex involve music. Meanwhile, a conversation with Alex’s asexual, pan-romantic sister gives Eren the framework to consider her own sexuality. Eren’s relatable effort to find her own path is sympathetically wrought, while the conflict between the birds and frostfangs provides an alternate lens for a protagonist working through layers of feelings. Ages 9–12. Agent: Holly Root, Root Literary. (May)