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Clap When You Land

Elizabeth Acevedo. Quill Tree, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-288276-9

At nearly 17, Camino Rios lives in the Dominican Republic with her aunt, where she dreams of attending medical school at Columbia University, near her father, whom she only sees for a few months each year. Skilled chess player Yahaira Rios, 16, lives with her Dominican parents in New York City, next door to her girlfriend, Dre. When Yahaira’s father leaves for his annual summer trip to the D.R., the plane crashes, leaving no survivors and upending the lives of Yahaira and his other daughter, Camino. In the months following the crash, the girls, previously unknown to each other, discover their sisterhood—and their father’s double life—and must come to terms with difficult truths about their parents. Returning to verse, Acevedo subtly, skillfully uses language and rhythm to give voice to the sisters’ grief, anger, and uncertainty; Camino’s introspective openness; and Yahaira’s tendency toward order and leadership. Raw and emotional, Acevedo’s exploration of loss packs an effective double punch, unraveling the aftermath of losing a parent alongside the realities of familial inheritance. Ages 14–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Camp

L.C. Rosen. Little, Brown, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-316-53775-9

At Camp Outland, a Connecticut sleepaway camp where everyone’s queer, 16-year-old Randy feels fully himself, enjoying “who-cares-if-your-wrists-are-loose-freedom.” He’s been a camper there since he was 12, and he and his friends in the drama cabin live and breathe theater. But this summer is different. Randy has butched up, gone out for sports, and started going by “Del” to land camp lothario Hudson, and not just for a fling, either: Randy’s been crushing for four years now, and he’s out for love. But can love be built on a lie? Rosen (Jack of Hearts [and Other Parts]) portrays Camp Outland as an LGBTQ idyll replete with queer history talks and gender-blind theater casting. He also takes on the “straight-acting” gay men who look down on Randy and his friends— friends who, in turn, disapprove of masc4masc Hudson—and shows that the butch-fem divide may be narrower than it seems (Randy’s friends disapprove of masc4masc Hudson, and Randy has his own doubts) in a fun, inclusive story that’s sex-, romance-, and LGBTQ-positive. Ages 14–up. Agent: Joy Tutela, David Black Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Gilded Ones (Deathless #1)

Namina Forna. Delacorte, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-9848-4869-7

All 16-year-old girls in Otera must endure the Ritual of Purity. Those who bleed red when cut are judged fit for marriage and motherhood; those who bleed gold are deemed impure and banished. Sturdy brown-skinned Deka is an outcast in Irfut, where villagers skew thin and blond, and she craves the rite’s validation. When the ceremony is interrupted by deathshrieks—vicious monsters with agonizing screams—Deka miraculously repels the creatures, only to be dubbed a demon. Multiple attempted executions reveal that Deka is both gold-blooded and seemingly unkillable. After two months of torture, a mysterious woman, White Hands, extends an invitation: come to the capital, where the emperor is assembling an army of quasi-immortal “alaki” like Deka to combat deathshrieks. Deka enlists, relieved to find a place where she might finally belong, but the more she learns about deathshrieks and alaki, the more she questions Otera’s patriarchal tenets and the emperor’s true intentions. Formidable heroines and a thoughtful feminist myth-ology distinguish debut author Forna’s West Africa–inspired fantasy trilogy launch. Abundant action drives the pace, while a nuanced plot advocates social change by illustrating the myriad ways in which society cages and commodifies women. Ages 12–up. Agent: Alice Sutherland-Hawes, Madeleine Milburn. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The Enigma Game

Elizabeth Wein. Little, Brown, $18.99 (432p) ISBN 978-1-368-01258-4

Set in 1940, between the events of The Pearl Thief and Code Name Verity, Wein’s latest immersive dive into a slice of WWII-era history splits the narration among three figures—Flt. Lt. Jamie Beaufort-Stuart; Ellen McEwen, a Traveller volunteering as a military driver; and Louisa Adair, the biracial daughter of a Jamaican father and a British mother, both recently killed by German explosives. Suddenly an orphan at 15, Louisa intersects with the others when she is hired by phone to escort an elderly German opera singer to a relative’s inn, located in the Scottish countryside near the air force base where Jamie and Ellen are stationed. Intrigue is added when the civilians arrive at the same moment as a German pilot who secretly deposits a code-breaking machine at the inn—the only Enigma machine in Allied hands. Louisa, who dearly wishes she could help the war effort as a pilot, now has the means to contribute, but she needs assistance. Wein again seamlessly weaves extensive research into a thriller populated by fully dimensional characters. Late in the novel, Jamie’s sister, Julie, makes a cameo as a newly minted intelligence officer, a poignant reminder to readers of Code Name Verity that the war will get much worse before it ends. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ginger Clark, Curtis Brown. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Mia Marcotte and the Robot

Jeanne Wald, illus. by Saliha Caliskan. Jeanne Wald, $15.99 (140p) ISBN 978-2-9568573-2-7

Wald’s illustrated chapter book debut stars third grader Mia Marcotte, an aspiring astronaut who happens upon her engineer aunt’s mysterious robot. When Mia learns that “the kids who make the best science fair projects” will be rewarded with a field trip to the space center, she’s determined to be one of them. There’s only one problem: she has no idea what her project will be, and the fair is in three days. Enter Aizek, an intelligent new robot friend who lacks imagination. With the support of Aizek and her pet parrot, Martian, Mia will have to flex her ingenuity if she wants to be a contender. Wald’s energetic narration, coupled with Caliskan’s animation-style drawings, capably portrays an imaginative girl pursuing her career and creative dreams. Though didactic dialogue and descriptions detract, Mia is a lovable, enthusiastic protagonist, and secondary characters entertain. Wald suffuses the plot with elementary-level science experiments and allusions, making this an inspiring read for those interested in STEM fields. Ages 8–up. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Quintessence

Jess Redman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-374-30976-3

A girl suffering panic attacks after her family moves to a new town finds purpose when she’s lent a special telescope that allows her to witness a star falling to Earth in child form. To help the Starling recover its power and return home, 12-year-old Alma Lucas and her new friends, including supersmart but socially awkward Hugo and multitalented, popular Shirin, must collect and unite pristine samples of the four classical elements—earth, air, fire, and water—from locations around the town of Four Points. But with a bully on their tail, the Starling proving difficult to catch, and Alma’s episodes increasing, this quest won’t be easy. Mixing modern science and alchemical traditions, Redman (The Miraculous) delivers a fanciful adventure with a rich emotional core and a fairy tale flair. An emphasis on Alma’s mental health and circular thought patterns proves an effective complement to the story’s magical elements, as her new endeavor and friends grant her the resilience to navigate her needs. Reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, this is a clever, entertaining story with its own distinct identity. Ages 8–12. Agent: Sara Crowe, Pippin Properties. (July)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Orphan Eleven

Gennifer Choldenko. Random/Lamb, $16.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-385-74255-9

Left at the Home for Friendless Children five years ago, 11-year-old Lucy Sauve, once a singer with a beautiful voice, has been relentlessly tormented by the head matron and music teacher until developing selective mutism. While working outside one spring day in 1939, Lucy escapes, hoping to make her way to Chicago and her older sister, Dilly. She’s joined by three other orphans, and the four hitchhike to that city, where they are connected with Jabo, a dwarf and the aspiring ringmaster of Sacchi’s Circus. If they secure an apprenticeship in one week without making three mistakes, they’re told, they can stay with the circus permanently. Lucy desperately wants to help care for the circus’s elephants, but it’s deemed too dangerous unless she speaks. Choldenko (the Tales from Alcatraz series) includes lively details about circus life in the 1930s as well as vividly wrought characters, such as prickly Bald Doris and kindhearted Jabo. Choldenko intersperses letters from Lucy’s sister that reveal the orphanage’s sinister attempts to keep Lucy from her family, adding a welcome layer of mystery to the story. With Lucy’s undaunted determination and boundless compassion, this uplifting tale of hope, survival, and belonging has all the ingredients to become a beloved middle grade book. Ages 8–12. Agent: Elizabeth Harding, Curtis Brown. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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The One and Only Bob

Katherine Applegate, illus. by Patricia Castelao. HarperCollins, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-0-06-299131-7

With this stellar sequel to her Newbery Award–winning The One and Only Ivan, Applegate sounds precisely balanced notes of genuine humor and heart-tugging tenderness through the voice of Ivan’s best friend, Chihuahua mutt Bob. Rescued by a loving family, former stray Bob regularly visits Ivan, who now lives in a wildlife sanctuary along with elephant Ruby. Tough-talking Bob, who was thrown out of a car with his siblings as a pup, acknowledges, albeit a bit defensively, that pampered domesticated life suits him: “So what if I’ve gotten a little spoiled? A tad soft around the edges?” Ricocheting between entertainment and poignancy, the dog’s musings on his past and present give way to an urgent chronicle of survival after a hurricane ravages Ivan and Ruby’s sanctuary while Bob is visiting. Applegate deepens the suspense (while, ingeniously, amplifying the humor) with the appearance of Bob’s long-lost sister. The novel’s fluid meshing of loyalty, forgiveness, and trust will leave readers hoping that the author has more one-and-only stories to tell. Final illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 8–12. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Fly on the Wall

Remy Lai. Holt, $16.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-31411-6

Henry Khoo chronicles his life quandaries in this fresh, idiosyncratic story that meshes prose and graphic novel formats. The 12-year-old Australian resident feels suffocated and sometimes humiliated by his overprotective mother and older sister, and is convinced that his father in Singapore, with whom he shares only perfunctory phone conversations, doesn’t like him. At school, Henry’s best and only friend suddenly adopts a new passel of pals, leaving him alone, resentful, and ready to retaliate. The multistranded plot unfolds in Henry’s notebook, brimming with hyperbolic line drawings that are charged with imagination, emotion, and humor. (He portrays his mother and sister as anthropomorphized helicopters hovering overhead, while a flattened Henry exclaims, “You’ve turned me into a helipad!”) The disgruntled boy makes some uncharacteristically bold, even reckless, moves. He creates the anonymous blog Fly on the Wall (the name reflects his feeling of invisibility), which features mean-spirited cartoons of classmates, and he surreptitiously flies alone to Singapore to speak with his father about some long-percolating questions. As she did in Pie in the Sky, Lai deftly mines the angst and conundrums of life as a dual-cultural adolescent fording the turbulent torrents of peer and family relationships. Ages 8–12. Agent: Jim McCarthy, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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Dragon Ops

Mari Mancusi. Little, Brown, $16.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-368-04090-7

When avid gamer Ian Rivera, 12, gets the once-in-a-lifetime chance to test out Dragon Ops—a fully immersive augmented reality theme park based on his favorite video game—before its release, he leaps at the opportunity, even if he has to share the experience with his sister, Lilli, and cousin Derek, neither of whom appreciate the visit to the remote South Pacific island on which it’s situated. Shortly after the three gear up to begin their adventure, the game’s end boss, dragon Atreus, traps them inside, kidnapping Derek and assigning Ian and Lilli a quest. They must find and defeat Atreus within three days, “no save points. No do-overs,” and any game-side fatality will result in their deaths. Luckily, they have the assistance of an AI guide named Yano, and Ikumi, an experienced fellow player, to compensate when Ian discovers that his in-game experiences haven’t prepared him for the more physical demands of the setting. With this adventure, Mancusi (Geeks and the Holy Grail) employs common gaming tropes, interweaving fantasy and mundane elements to create a world that feels familiar and yet enjoyably dangerous. The concepts—rogue AIs, theme parks gone haywire—may be well visited, but Mancusi successfully delivers a sense of urgency to her entertaining tale. Ages 8–12. Agent: Mandy Hubbard, Emerald City Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 04/03/2020 | Details & Permalink

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