cover image Mid Air

Mid Air

Alicia D. Williams, illus. by Danica Novgorodoff. S&S/Dlouhy, $17.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4814-6583-0

Black eighth grader Isaiah and his best friends Drew and Darius enjoy skate-boarding and trying to break Guinness world records. His comfortable world is soon torn apart when, during an attempt to break the record for the longest wheelie on a bike, Darius is hit by a car and dies, leaving Drew and Isaiah to contemplate their upcoming summer and subsequent move to high school without him. Wracked with grief and guilt, Isaiah feels a fissure forming between him and Drew, stemming partially from Isaiah hiding parts of himself—such as his love of classic rock and comics, and his exploration of nail polish and emo fashion—for fear of being called a “wannabe-white-boy-rock-star.” To reconnect with Drew, Isaiah suggests that they try to break the world record for the longest wheelie to honor Darius. But when his desperate scheme inadvertently leads to more heartbreak, Isaiah is sent to his aunt and uncle’s house in the country for respite. Pastoral features such as expressive b&w illustrations by Novgorodoff (Long Way Down) and clear, accessible verse by Williams (Genesis Begins Again) skillfully juxtapose larger, heavier examinations of grief, identity, mental health, and racism, making for a heartfelt novel about an unmoored child seeking strength and self-forgiveness. Ages 10–up. Agent: Brenda Bowen, Book Group. (Apr.)