cover image The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

The Spirit Bares Its Teeth

Andrew Joseph White. Peachtree Teen, $19.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-68263-611-4

Silas Bell—a transgender, autistic 16-year-old—has the violet eyes of a Speaker, mediums who can communicate across the Veil between the living and the dead. But to openly use his abilities, he must obtain a seal from the Royal Speaker Society, which has decreed, in the Speaker Act of 1841, that women can’t be Speakers (“I am not a woman, but as long as I am seen as one, I will be forced under the jurisdiction of the law all the same,” Silas laments). An attempt to masquerade as a Speaker initiate lands Silas at Braxton’s Finishing School and Sanitorium, an all-girls academy intended to train rebellious girls to be docile wives. There, Silas learns that girls have been disappearing from the institution, and Silas—along with an unexpected ally—endeavors to investigate Braxton’s treacherous secrets, even as he plots his escape. In this Victorian alternate history, a frank exploration of intentional cruelty, Silas’s identity as an autistic trans teen in a society that does not accept him translates into his developing powerful empathy toward his peers. Via precise, intentional prose, White (Hell Followed with Us) crafts an unsettlingly horrific tale that boasts a rich and fully realized world, propelled by a champion of a protagonist whose determination to fight for his right to survive is both uplifting and empowering. Main characters are white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jennifer March Soloway, Andrea Brown Literary. (Sept.)