cover image The Way We Bared Our Souls

The Way We Bared Our Souls

Willa Strayhorn. Razorbill, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-59514-735-6

In Strayhorn’s debut, high school junior Consuelo “Lo” McDonough is beginning to show symptoms of multiple sclerosis—something that terrifies her, since the disease recently took the life of her aunt. After a mysterious stranger with a coyote offers to take Lo on a healing journey, she sets out to gather four other suffering companions to participate in the ritual with her. The four classmates she enlists are either virtual strangers or abandoned former friends—party girl Ellen, dependent on increasingly dangerous drugs; Kaya, who cannot feel physical pain due to a rare neurological condition; Thomas, a former child soldier from Liberia with a bloody past; and Kit, who is mired in mourning for his dead girlfriend. In the deserts outside Santa Fe, the five magically swap their respective burdens, leading to revelations, fresh perspectives, and tragedy. Rather than deal with one momentous challenge in depth, Strayhorn’s efforts to do justice to five of them results in superficial treatments all around. Similarly, the vague mysticism in which she wraps the characters’ journey feels spiritually thin. Ages 12–up. Agent: Gloria Loomis, Watkins Loomis. (Jan.)