cover image The Monstrous Misses Mai

The Monstrous Misses Mai

Van Hoang. 47North, $16.99 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-66251-784-6

Middle grade author Hoang (Girl Giant and the Jade War) makes her adult debut with this entertaining cautionary tale about ambition that doubles as a probe into privilege. In 1959 Los Angeles, Cordelia Mai Yin is kicked out of her parents’ home after an argument over her dream to become a fashion designer, which they deem impractical. With little money and fewer job prospects for a second-generation Vietnamese American woman, it’s a miracle when a mysterious white man, Callum, swoops in and offers her an ultra-cheap place to stay. Her new roommates, all Asian women with the same middle name as her, quickly become a surrogate family, though, outside of the apartment, all of them must contend with racism and sexism that prevents them from greater successes. When Callum returns with an idea of how magic can help them achieve their dreams, the girls jump at the chance. They perform a ritual, and success soon follows—but all magic comes with a cost, and this new world of sacrifices and gains may not be any kinder than their previous reality. While many of the characters’ behavior skews frustratingly naive, the story’s major strength lies in the powerful but complicated friendships between the women of the Misses Mai residence. It’s not perfect, but there’s plenty here for readers to sink their teeth into. Agent: Mary C. Moore, Aevitas. (Apr.)