cover image Lily and the Night Creatures

Lily and the Night Creatures

Nick Lake, illus. by Emily Gravett. Simon & Schuster, $17.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9461-9

Viscerally rendered emotions and resonant chronic-illness representation build to a thrilling collaboration that deals in horror tropes. Since her diagnosis, whose treatment reads as dialysis, Lily Wilson’s parents are “always telling her not to do stuff. To rest. To preserve her strength,” and Lily fears her soon-arriving sibling, The Baby, will replace her. Left with her grandmother when her mother goes into labor, Lily sneaks home “to remind her parents that they already had her,” but finds her house dark, “like someone had put out its eyes.” It’s occupied by her parents’ doppelgängers—coal-eyed and quick-moving—which plan to absorb her family’s life forces and offer to do the same for her. Though tempted (“No more hospital visits, no more tests, no more injections”) and doubtful of her strength, Lily, supported by four magical garden animals, works to expel the replacements, save her family, and reclaim her life. A Coraline-like plot yields the novel’s main substance: Lily’s rediscovery of her own self-worth following diagnosis and family changes. Employing concrete metaphors, Lake (Satellite) confronts taboo but important emotions, including jealousy and passive suicidal ideation, softening them with the animals’ optimistic banter. Grayscale illustrations by Gravett (The Imaginary) unsettle through off-kilter architecture and whimsical figures as, alongside Lily, illustrations and text evolve toward hope. All characters cue as white. Ages 8–12. (Aug.)