cover image A Royal Conundrum (The Misfits #1)

A Royal Conundrum (The Misfits #1)

Lisa Yee, illus. by Dan Santat. Random House, $14.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-9848-3029-6

Ever since her grandmother Mimi’s death, East Asian American tween Olive Cobin Zhang—who “never fit in” at school and hardly sees her busy parents—has felt especially alone. Worse, her mother abruptly sends her to a former castle that had been turned into a prison before being converted into a “reforming arts school.” But the prestigious boarding school is a cover; soon, Olive is recruited for an experimental group of covert child operatives to serve as the eyes and ears of the pseudo-government crime-fighting organization No One Can Know, or NOCK. She quickly befriends fellow operative and computer genius Philomena, as well as tough girl Iggy, bookworm James, and laid-back Theo; together, they deem themselves the Misfits. Yee (Maizy Chen’s Last Chance) builds suspense in this spy-adjacent series opener by utilizing an immediate feeling third-person perspective to depict Olive’s grief over Mimi and attempts to make friends while contending with secretive and dangerous circumstances. An in media res opening alongside expressive and animated b&w pencil illustrations by Santat (A First Time for Everything) add dynamism to the text and heighten the rapidly paced narrative. One of the Misfits wears a hijab and another is Black; other supporting characters are depicted with varying skin tones. Ages 8–12. (Jan.)