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Sixteen Scandals

Sophie Jordan. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-358-20621-7

Red-haired, freckled Primrose Ainsworth, sheltered and perpetually overlooked, has longed for the freedom that turning 16 will bring ever since witnessing her three elder sisters enter London society in succession. But when her birthday arrives in June 1821 and her mother dispassionately declares that Prim’s debut will be delayed for at least a year, Prim rebels. Enlisting the help of her best friend Olympia Zaher, the striking, brown-skinned daughter of a renowned opera singer, Prim dresses in a daring borrowed gown and dons a mask to covertly visit Vauxhall, the scandalous outdoor pleasure gardens. When a brawl separates the duo, Prim finds herself in the company of a handsome, unquestionably well-off stranger also missing his companions, who insists she call him Jacob, and infuriates and intrigues her in equal measure. Though offering a brief, two-day glimpse into Prim’s life, Jordan (Kissing Lessons) neatly evokes the familiar beats of a Regency romance and credibly establishes the setting. The charming Pride and Prejudice–reminiscent romance effectively renders the privilege and societal power dynamics at play and imbues forward-thinking, dynamic heroine Prim with refreshing agency. Ages 12–up. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Mission Multiverse

Rebecca Caprara. Amulet, $16.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4197-4823-3

On a field trip to NASA’s Gwen Research Center in Conroy, Ohio, a quintet of middle school marching band members is transported to a parallel dimension after a mysterious portal-opening device is accidentally activated. Indian American saxophonist and physicist’s son Dev Khatri; olive-skinned, prank-playing drummer Lewis Wynner; Black, fashion-conscious mayor’s daughter Tessa Hawthorne-Scott (masquerading as her clarinet-playing identical twin sister, Zoey); anxious, gray-eyed, implied Asian trumpeter Isaiah Yoon; and dramatic white oboist Maeve Greene are whisked away to Station Liminus, a waypoint between different worlds. There, they learn that Earth is destined for destruction in 30 days unless they can convince the Multiverse Allied Council, which represents the known dimensions, to help. In this fast-paced intergalactic romp, Caprara (The Magic of Melwick Orchard) introduces an inclusive cast of memorable characters, who must deal with hostile aliens, unfamiliar customs, and the fate of the world as they know it. Elements including the sprawling cast and myriad dimensions may overwhelm at times, but Caprara successfully maintains excitement throughout this action-packed series opener, even while focusing on characters’ individual issues and dynamics. Ages 8–12. Agent: Christa Heschke, McIntosh and Otis. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Meet Cute Diary

Emery Lee. Quill Tree, $17.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-0630-3883-7

Noah Ramirez, a trans 16-year-old who is Japanese, Afro-Caribbean, and white, is spending the summer with his older brother, a college student in Denver, before moving from Florida to California. Noah plans to work on his wildly popular Meet Cute Diary blog, “designed to bring love to trans kids in need,” where he posts meet-cute stories. It’s his main focus in life, but it’s also fake: he writes all the posts himself, while letting readers believe they’re submitted anonymously. When an online troll catches on to Noah’s ruse, he and a handsome reader, cisgender Drew, who is white, fake the perfect relationship to prove the blog’s legitimacy. Through an unlikely friendship with sweet, grounded Devin, who is Cuban American, asexual, and experimenting with pronouns, Noah—initially self-centered and standoffish—learns to value communication and empathy, resulting in a satisfying character arc. It’s unclear why Noah’s having a boyfriend will persuade his audience of the Diary’s legitimacy, but plenty of humor and an honest portrayal of the hard work that a successful relationship requires buoy Lee’s hope-filled debut. Ages 14–up. Agent: Claire Draper, the Bent Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Every Body Shines: Sixteen Stories about Living Fabulously Fat

Edited by Cassandra Newbould. Bloomsbury, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-5476-0607-8

Featuring 16 genre-diverse stories by fat-identifying writers, this anthology edited by author and Fat Like Me podcaster Newbould showcases fat characters across a variety of cultures, ethnicities, gender identities, places, and passions. Through a body-affirming lens, the contributors, including Alex Gino, Francina Simone, Rebecca Sky, and Renée Watson, provide a space where, as written in Aubrey Gordon’s (Your Fat Friend) moving introduction, fat-identifying readers will “feel understood, validated, seen, and celebrated.” Similar themes appear throughout, but each entry is distinct: in Nafiza Azad’s “Dupatta Diaries,” desi teen Jamilah confronts her family’s fatphobia with the help of a sentient dupatta that encourages her to embrace her hunger and enjoy food. In Chris Baron’s “Food Is Love,” Jewish aspiring chef Josh navigates his complicated relationship with food, love, and the ways they intersect. Presenting both joys and frustrations, this unapologetically honest collection features characters finding their voices alongside characters who fully embrace their bodies, challenge stereotypes, and refuse to let anything hold them back, effectively dispelling any notion of fatness as a singular perspective. Ages 14–up. Agent: Jordan Hamessley, New Leaf Literary. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Alchemyst’s Mirror (The Everturn Chronicles #1)

Liz Delton. Tourmaline & Quartz, $19.99 (220p) ISBN 978-1-73452-316-4

A mysterious trunk from their missing older brother Jiordan sends sisters Petra and Maisie Everturn on a dangerous journey to find him. Black-haired Petra, 20, and her golden-haired sister Maisie, 17, run their late parents’ tea shop in Harrowdel. Dead ends are all they find in their monthslong search for their explorer brother, until a flaxen-haired treasure hunter, Evan Rosslyn, appears at their shop with a mysteriously engraved trunk that may hold clues to Jiordan’s whereabouts—and was only supposed to be delivered upon his death. Told in alternating story lines, Petra scours the world of Harrowdel and Maisie explores the seas beyond as they both pursue their brother. But both sisters must confront the Guild of the Rose, an ancient, dark alchemist society searching for a powerful mirror that “can transport the person holding it to another place,” which Jiordan allegedly stole. Though Petra reads younger than her age, and the novel relies on a few plot conveniences, Delton (The Storm King) builds an absorbing steampunk setting in this series starter, from the lifts connecting the levels to the magical, mechanical trinkets used by the girls and the Guild. Ages 14–up. (Self-published)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Alice Fleck’s Recipes for Disaster

Rachelle Delaney. Puffin Canada, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-7352-6927-9

Rising seventh grader Alice Fleck, 12, who has unruly “ginger-colored hair,” secretly enjoys being sous-chef to her culinary historian father as they whip up historically accurate, sometimes stomach-churning, recipes. But then her father’s “unnecessary” girlfriend, Hana Holmes, announces that she has entered the duo into their favorite cooking show, Culinary Chronicles, “quite possibly the friendliest cooking competition on TV.” Alice doesn’t want to be on-screen—or around Hana, since the program will be shot at the “week-long Victorian festival” Hana is lecturing at. Things go from sour to downright unsavory when the production team announces that the show has been acquired and transformed into Culinary Combat, evaluated by Tom Truffleman, “the fiercest judge in the world of competitive cooking.” As the contestants prepare Victorian dishes such as charlotte russe, suspicious kitchen accidents point to sabotage, and Alice and her new friends, two other children at the festival, must find the perpetrator—especially after Truffleman accuses Alice’s father of cheating. Detailing fascinating food history and delectable dishes, Delaney (Clara Voyant) serves a toothsome culinary caper amid a gentle, well-balanced portrait of one preteen’s journey toward accepting adaptability and change. Ages 10–14. Agent: Amy Tompkins, Transatlantic Agency. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Tuesday Is Daddy’s Day

Elliot Kreloff. Holiday House, $18.99 (48p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4891-3

Kreloff follows a long-haired, light brown–skinned child who alternates between the houses of their curly-haired Black mother and round-bodied white father. Daisy, a squiggly blue stuffed puppy, is the child’s constant companion: “on Mondays and Wednesdays, I stay with Mommy. Daisy does too,” and “on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Daisy and I stay with Daddy and Harry,” Daddy’s partner. In spite of the alternating schedule, each home has similarities: both parents make the child “noodles with butter and cheese,” read one bedtime story aloud, and profess their love for the child. But when Mommy arrives at school pickup one Tuesday, citing a surprise in the works, the changed schedule results in an outburst. Kreloff’s grease pencil drawings are rendered in a hand-drawn, childlike style, with fabric collage and soft digital splashes of color providing additional visual appeal. A sweet look at one child’s experience with co-parenting guardians. Back matter includes tips for “when you get a new puppy.” Ages 3–7. (May)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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Summer in the City of Roses

Michelle Ruiz Keil. Soho Teen, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-64129-171-2

Though no wicked stepmothers or Greek gods inhabit the world of this surreal, magical realist tale set in 1990s Portland, Ore., Keil (All of Us with Wings) steeps the narrative in fairy tale and myth. Following Greek and Mexican American siblings Iphigenia “Iph” Santos Velos, 17, and Orestes “Orr” Santos Velos, 15, the novel opens in the wake of their father’s decision to send sensitive Orr to Meadowbrook Rehabilitation Center for Boys—without notifying either sibling in advance. While Orr escapes, fleeing the toxic masculinity of “boot camp,” and finds refuge with all-girl punk band the Furies, aspiring actor Iph runs away from home to reunite with her brother, en route receiving assistance from a queer Robin Hood figure. With ample ’90s references and an empathic, feminist bent, Keil brings a past incarnation of Portland to life in vivid detail. Though several of the novel’s narrative threads take unusual turns that may frustrate some readers, Keil’s lush language (“Honey to tongue, throat to heart, and she is shrinking like Alice”) and endearing cast of free spirits enchant the whole way through. A nostalgic, heady read perfect for a summer day. Ages 14–up. Agent: Hannah Fergesen, KT Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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In the Same Boat

Holly Green. Scholastic Press, $18.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-338-72663-3

Debut author Green, an experienced rower, writes a thrill-a-minute adventure/romance set during the 265-mile racecourse of the fictionalized Texas River Odyssey. After an accident stops her and her father from completing his 20th annual canoe race, Sadie Scofield, 17, is determined to redeem herself a year later by making the top five—this time with her brother Tanner. But Tanner decides at the last minute to race with another team, leaving devastated Sadie with no option but to row with her former best friend and current enemy, Cully Hinks. Despite the resentment she carries, though, Sadie’s feelings for Cully take a romantic turn as the two face numerous life-threatening challenges, including fallen trees, a lightning storm, and the threat of dehydration. Told from Sadie’s point of view, with particular focus on her fear of disappointing her family, this engrossing novel covers two journeys: a physical trek that has the teens battling for survival, and Sadie’s internal arc as she sorts out truths about the long-term war between her family and Cully’s, and the incident that drove them apart. Meticulous details about the art of rowing and weathering long-distance racing add authenticity to this briskly paced novel and its characters, who are cued white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Michael Bourret, Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. (July)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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The Right Side of Reckless

Whitney D. Grandison. Inkyard, $18.99 (416p) ISBN 978-1-335-40248-6

In her sophomore novel, Grandison (A Love Hate Thing) writes a second-chance story for 17-year-old Guillermo Lozano, whose family moves to a new neighborhood, “quiet and clean” Briar Pointe, after he is granted probation following time in juvenile detention for simple assault. While doing community service at Briar Park Community Center, he meets Regan London, his supervisor’s daughter. Sixteen-year-old Regan is dating her school’s football star, Troy, and isn’t interested in her father’s set view of her future as an accountant, but she’s immediately drawn to Guillermo. The two are warned to stay away from each other, but as Troy becomes more disrespectful toward Regan, and Guillermo slowly finds his calling in mentoring others, the pull between them becomes unavoidable. Through a magnetic BIPOC cast, the novel explores a range of situations that come with feeling lost, meeting expectations, and experiencing pressure from peers and loved ones. Though the story’s center drags a bit, Guillermo and Regan’s alternating voices stand solidly on their own as the characters create an accepting, endearing romance built on respect between partners. Ages 13–up. Agent: Uwe Stender, Triada US. (July)

Reviewed on 05/14/2021 | Details & Permalink

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