Subscriber-Only Content. You must be a PW subscriber to access feature articles from our print edition. To view, subscribe or log in.
Site license users can log in here.

Get IMMEDIATE ACCESS to Publishers Weekly for only $15/month.

Instant access includes exclusive feature articles on notable figures in the publishing industry, the latest industry news, interviews of up and coming authors and bestselling authors, and access to over 200,000 book reviews.

PW "All Access" site license members have access to PW's subscriber-only website content. To find out more about PW's site license subscription options please email: PWHelp@omeda.com or call 1-800-278-2991 (outside US/Canada, call +1-847-513-6135) 8:00 am - 4:30 pm, Monday-Friday (Central).

My Mind Is a Mountain/Mi mente es una montaña

Cindy Montenegro, illus. by Nqobile Adigun. Lil’ Libros, $17.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-948066-18-1

“Your mind is a mountain, powerful and strong./ You can handle every emotion,/ no matter how big or how small!” instructs a child narrator in this earnest bilingual guide to managing feelings. In Montenegro’s plainspoken prose, printed in English and Spanish, the narrator, portrayed with brown skin, first recounts the bodily sensations that accompany happiness, sadness, excitement, and anger. Adigun’s illustrations portray basic, communicative facial expressions and sympathetic backdrops (e.g., shadowy blue green for sadness). Having acknowledged the reality of overwhelming feelings, the child recommends visualizing oneself atop a mountain, employing a deep breathing technique, and talking to others. Finally, the yogic child addresses the reader: “How are you feeling right now?/ Who would you like to share your feelings with today?” Though the segue to interactivity comes suddenly, the volume succeeds in making emotional regulation feel achievable. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
When You Take a Step

Bethanie Deeney Murguia. Beach Lane, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-1-5344-7367-6

Walking becomes an entry point into deliberate living in this meditative picture book. With each step, “You begin a journey./ You find your balance.// You greet the world, wide and full,” read opening lines. In accompanying grayscale digital illustrations, pops of color appear across magenta footwear that acts as a visual through line. Mary-janes “crunch fall leaves” and high tops “share a path,” while other styles are featured in both urban and rural environments. Some scenes have a more social dimension, as in one picturing a hiker surrounded by the shadows of those who have walked before (including a dinosaur). Though the concept is simple—even a single step can empower—it uplifts via Deeney Murguia’s polished execution. Ages up to 8. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Duet: Our Journey in Song with the Northern Mockingbird

Phillip Hoose. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $24.99 (160p) ISBN 978-0-374-38877-5

In an accessible volume, Hoose (The Race to Save the Lord God Bird) chronicles the scientific and cultural interconnectedness of humankind and versatile avian songsmith the northern mockingbird. The fowl—whose scientific name, Mimus polyglottos, means “many-tongued mimic”—can learn over 200 songs in its lifetime; its singing prowess is facilitated by the syrinx, an organ “not much bigger than a raindrop,” which enables complex vocalizations inimitable by humans. The opening chapter, “Four Hundred Tongues,” sets the stage for some of the earliest tales featuring the mockingbird, outlining myriad Indigenous stories from Cherokee, Hopi, Maricopa, and Zuñi peoples, among others. Some purport that specific languages were developed via mockingbird vocals; others indicate that the birds watch over the dead. The bird’s singing ability also made it highly revered by many historical figures, including Charles Darwin, Harriet Hemenway, and Thomas Jefferson. Through loosely connected historical vignettes, Hoose capably paints a straightforward picture of the northern mockingbird, its species history, and its impact on the world, positing that “to kill a mockingbird would be to destroy a duet.” Color photographs feature throughout; source notes and further information conclude. Ages 12–up. Agent: Jennie Dunham, Dunham Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Unretouchable

Sofia Szamosi. Graphic Universe, $14.99 (152p) ISBN 978-1-728-46292-9

Szamosi employs witty narration and stark b&w ink to deliver a sincere, offbeat cautionary graphic novel of social media’s pitfalls, including its effect on mental health and body image. Olive, a recent N.Y.C. high school grad, dreams of becoming a professional fine artist like her late grandfather. But her Hungarian American mother, who works for a golf magazine, urges her to be practical. Hoping to help her “understand how people in the arts really make a living,” Olive’s mom uses her industry connections to get Olive an internship retouching fashion photography for a magazine. She immediately notices the unrealistic beauty expectations perpetuated by digitally created images of people called virtual models. The more she learns at her internship, the less she wants to see, but the body positivity movement’s increasing prevalence, as well as heart-to-hearts with mentors—including her boss, who stays grounded by making paper collages, a form of “unretouchable” art—help Olive navigate an occasionally disheartening media landscape. Szamosi’s art sometimes leans into abstract renderings of the protagonist’s feelings (Olive often visualizes her own body morphing to fit her mood and circumstances). If the narrative moralizes a bit, it does so with candor and refreshing realism. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting

Kindra Neely. Little, Brown, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-3164-6208-2

After surviving a mass shooting on her Umpqua Community College campus in 2015, teenage Neely grapples with suicidal ideation and various other long-lasting effects on her mental health, as detailed in this harrowing graphic novel memoir, a debut. Following the incident, Neely experiences panic attacks and PTSD, for which she attempts to seek counseling through school services, but there are no therapists available. She laments living in a country where gun violence persists at an alarming frequency; “This is everywhere,” she says upon receiving news notifications reporting further gun violence, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. Though the attack is never explicitly depicted on the page (the closest it gets is a single panel of a gun firing at the start of the event), the entire sequence, rendered in striking, vibrant color, tangibly captures bystanders’ fear and confusion; comparatively, a heart-wrenching scene in which Neely attempts to take her own life is portrayed in muted gray tones. Via realistic dialogue, tense relationship dynamics, and turbulent emotional highs and lows, Neely astutely asserts the importance of hopeful defiance in the face of the numbness and resignation that often accompanies feelings of powerlessness. Back matter includes resources for suicide prevention and anti-gun organizations. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Prunella and the Cursed Skull Ring

Matthew Loux. First Second, $18.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-250-16261-8

After Prunella—portrayed with voluminous red hair, pale skin, and a wide grin—finds a cursed ring while working in her garden, it morphs her into a living skeleton, resulting in exile from her monster-hating town in this creature-filled adventure. When her inattentive mother and fellow villagers don’t recognize her, post-transformation, Prunella is banished. Once she’s beyond the town’s high wall, she learns that the monsters who inhabit the lands outside the village are not as terrifying as she was led to believe. While searching for the wise Cat Sphinx, who might be able to break her curse, Prunella visits a town home to yoˉkai; fields teeming with animated stone heads; and a cove filled with playful skeletons just like her. Though she worries she may not be able to break her curse, Prunella’s pure heart wins her a score of friends along her journey. Rounded, heavily inked line art and bold hues by Loux (the Time Museum series) render the characters comically expressive. This fast-paced adventure, populated by classic fantasy creatures with charming quirks and paired with a buoyant tone, urges acceptance and peaceful coexistence. Human characters are portrayed as white. Ages 6–10. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Each Night Was Illuminated

Jodi Lynn Anderson. Quill Tree, $17.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-06-239357-9

Cassie Blake always wanted to be a nun, but she struggles with her faith after witnessing a horrific accident, in this spiritual tale. Cassie was 11 when she and visiting friend Elias Jones watched a train crossing the bridge into exurb Green Valley, N.J., plummet into the reservoir, killing six people. Seven years later, Cassie—still processing the trauma of what she saw—has lost her faith in God, is coping with chronic insomnia, and ignores Elias’s letters from Australia. But suddenly Elias is back in Green Valley for the summer, preparing to attend college. Hoping to reconnect, he invites her to help him look for ghosts; though Cassie agrees, she’s skeptical that his high-tech gear, which includes an infrared sensor to uncover ectoplasm, will bear fruit. When Elias pulls a prank on Cassie’s contentious priest that backfires, and a harrowing incident threatens to upend his future, Cassie must contend with looming disaster, both internal and external. Though the disjointed plot occasionally stalls forward momentum, Anderson (Midnight at the Electric) uses Cassie’s contemplative and resilient voice to detail a true-to-life exploration of one teen’s shifting relationship with faith. Most characters read as white; Elias has a Bangladeshi grandparent. Ages 14–up. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
Afterlove

Tanya Byrne. Macmillan/Godwin, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-1-2508-6561-8

A teenager’s life—and budding romance—is unceremoniously cut short when she dies and becomes a grim reaper in this otherworldly romance by British author Byrne. Despite differing financial circumstances and their experiencing homophobia within their Brighton community, the attraction between Indo- Guyanese British Ash Persaund and white-cued Poppy Morgan, both 16, blooms into an earnest courtship. But their romance is short-lived; when Ash is killed in a hit-and-run on New Year’s Eve, she becomes a grim reaper, tasked with ferrying souls into the afterlife. Alongside fellow reapers—kind, white-cued Dev and snarky, brown-skinned Esen—and their mysterious Black leader, Deborah, Ash cares for Brighton teens’ departed souls. She also dreams of a seemingly out-of-reach future with Poppy, until a chance encounter leaves Ash fearing that Poppy may join her sooner than she thinks. Though Ash’s friendships with her reaper found family feel underdeveloped in a narrative that reveals few surprises, her nuanced and loving relationships with her parents and younger sister, and her sugar-sweet romance with Poppy—including their immediate connection, first date, and early sexual intimacy—are balanced with pensive ruminations on death and loss. Tender, heartbreaking, and hopeful, this love story pulls on the heartstrings. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Art of Insanity

Christine Webb. Peachtree Teen, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-68263-457-8

High school senior Natalie Cardova, an artist, is used to keeping secrets. Most of them are little ones, such as replacing her brother’s beta fish with a new one so he wouldn’t find out that it died. But she’s also hiding one big personal truth: following an attempted suicide, she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Convinced that “appearances are everything,” her mother insists that no one can know about Natalie’s BPD, because it will tank her friendships and ruin her shot at both becoming Homecoming queen and receiving scholarships to art school. But as Natalie juggles keeping her secret, a budding romance with sweet and disarming Ty, and an upcoming trip to Paris to participate in a prestigious art exhibition, she forgoes her medication: “I am not sick. Medications are for sick people,” she asserts. Even as she struggles to be emotionally vulnerable—both with herself and Ty—Natalie’s sharply drawn narrative voice provides levity and good humor. Debut author Webb draws from her own experience living with BPD to deliver a blistering portrayal of one teen’s attempts to seem “normal enough” while managing a mental disorder—and the stigma and stereotypes that often accompany it—amid increasingly overwhelming life changes. Most characters cue as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Emily Keyes, Fuse Literary. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
I’m the Girl

Courtney Summers. Wednesday, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-2508-0836-3

Summers (The Project) attentively outlines harsh realities of bodily autonomy, predatory behavior, and sexual violence in this emotionally raw and brutally captivating novel. Georgia Avis, 16, wants to be an Aspera girl, one of the beautiful young women who works at a members-only mountainside resort. While biking to Aspera, hoping to persuade them to hire her, she’s knocked unconscious in a hit-and-run and, when she comes to, finds her bike and bag missing. Injured, she stumbles upon the corpse of 13-year-old Ashley James, who was sexually assaulted before her death. When George makes it to Aspera, the owners take her under their wing, giving her an admin job; while she’s disappointed to not be an Aspera girl, it’s implied that if she does well, she can move up. At Aspera, she befriends Ashley’s older sister, Nora, and helps her dig into the mystery of Ashley’s assault and death even as George delves deeper into the sinister adult world of glitz and glamour she’s longed for. Summers expertly weaves together drama, mystery, and romance via George’s guileless narration for an intense look into one girl’s wish to be seen as mature, and the powers that manipulate her, in this powerful, ultimately hopeful performance. Characters read as white. Ages 13–up. Agent: Faye Bender, Book Group. (Sept.)

Correction: A previous version of this review misstated the author's prior title.

Reviewed on 08/05/2022 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Forgot Password

Premium online access is only available to PW subscribers. If you have an active subscription and need to set up or change your password, please click here.

New to PW? To set up immediate access, click here.

NOTE: If you had a previous PW subscription, click here to reactivate your immediate access. PW site license members have access to PW’s subscriber-only website content. If working at an office location and you are not "logged in", simply close and relaunch your preferred browser. For off-site access, click here. To find out more about PW’s site license subscription options, please email Mike Popalardo at: mike@nextstepsmarketing.com.

To subscribe: click here.