cover image Torch


Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Carolrhoda Lab, $19.99 (328p) ISBN 978-1-72841-568-0

Three teens’ lives are upended following the death of a mutual loved one in this searing historical novel by Miller-Lachmann (Surviving Santiago), set in 1969 after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. When Soviet agents arrest 17-year-old Pavol for smashing road signs to delay the incursion of tanks into Prague, the government rejects his university application in retaliation and sentences him to a career in the mines—the very livelihood that killed his father. Inspired by the death of real historical political martyr Jan Palach, and believing that “the only way out of his ruined life was a torch,” Pavol dies by suicide, setting himself on fire “for freedom.” Pavol’s three best friends—gay hockey star and former bully Šteˇpán, neurodivergent intellectual Tomáš, and pregnant girlfriend Lída—struggle to navigate life following his death. Miller-Lachmann deftly balances moments of happiness and hope within an ominously rendered narrative marked by fear and potential catastrophe. This captivating political thriller is perfect for Ruta Sepetys fans. A beginning note provides suicide prevention resources; a concluding author’s note details the inspiration behind Tomáš’s characterization. Ages 13–up. (Nov.)