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Old Wounds

Logan-Ashley Kisner. Delacorte, $19.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-5938-1474-1

Transgender 18-year-old exes Erin and Max leave Columbus, Ohio, for Berkeley, Calif.; Max to flee his parents, whose emotional and physical abuse led to his suicide attempt, and Erin to escape haunting memories of her father’s abandonment and death. Following a series of mysterious car troubles, they find themselves trapped in rural Lebanon Junction, Ky. There, over the course of one long, terrifying night, they are pursued by a group of men who feed girls to the ominous Bullitt Beast, which they believe requires sacrifices to keep floods at bay. As Erin and Max contend with violent attacks, transphobic vitriol, and attempted sexual assault, they must also confront their own fraught relationship and decide how far they’re willing to go to save themselves—and each other. Via the teens’ alternating POVs, Kisner sculpts two complex, believably flawed protagonists without demonizing nor glossing over their mistakes as they navigate their trauma. While violent and spine-tinglingly creepy on the surface, Kisner’s debut is also a hopeful story of connection and community, and a fiery ode to the trans youth who must fight for survival in a society set against them. Major characters read as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Chloe Seager, Madeleine Milburn Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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Ida, in Love and in Trouble

Veronica Chambers. Little, Brown, $18.99 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-50016-6

Chambers (Finish the Fight) crafts a fictionalized account of the professional and romantic life of civil rights figure Ida B. Wells in this expansive historical novel. As the daughter of formerly enslaved people who died when she was a child, teenage Ida is determined to overcome the adversities she faces as a Black woman in America to make something of herself and her family name (“If fear was insistent on shackling itself to her side, then it better be prepared to go all the places Ida intended to go”). Starting with Ida’s career as a teacher in Memphis, where she also wrote articles about race relations for Black-owned newspapers, Chambers chronicles Ida’s interpersonal developments, such as the years in which she kept up correspondence with several suitors. Selections from protagonist Ida’s columns, letters to and from romantic prospects, and entries from her diary are interspersed throughout the narrative, which reads more like a biography than a youthful imagining of the subject’s life. Still, the creator’s thorough research will allow readers to uncover new insight into the figure’s experience navigating societal standards for women—especially Black women—in the late 19th century. Ages 14–up. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, InkWell Management. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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The Hysterical Girls of St. Bernadette’s

Hanna Alkaf. Salaam Reads, $19.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-5344-9458-9

The students of St. Bernadette’s, a 112-year-old premier all-girls school, inexplicably begin to let out terrified, unrelenting screams in this electrifyingly dark thriller set in Kuala Lumpur. Following an undisclosed incident, 16-year-old Khadijah hasn’t spoken in three months and avoids physical touch. Meanwhile, almost-17-year-old Rachel is a top student, but her every move is dictated by her wealthy mother. When teens begin screaming one by one and are unable to stop, officials blame ghosts and mass hysteria. After Khad’s younger sister is beget by the scream—and as those affected begin disappearing—Khad and her friends endeavor to solve the mystery. Rachel soon joins in, and together, the girls learn the truth about their beloved school and the real-life monsters that inhabit it. Over the course of the investigation, Alkaf (Night of the Living Head) gradually unveils details surrounding Khad and Rachel’s pasts. Piercing observations into the teens’ struggles gaining autonomy are explored alongside sensitively wrought instances of trauma and sexual violence via immersive prose peppered with Malay words and phrases. Most characters are Malaysian Muslim. Ages 14–up. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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At the End of the River Styx

Michelle Kulwicki. Page Street, $18.99 (384p) ISBN 979-8-89003-960-6

Zan has been leading marked souls to the Styx to be consumed after death in service to the Ferryman for 499 years. He only has one year left in the bargain he made to save his mother’s life, after which he will be reborn into contemporary society. Meanwhile, in Portland, Ore., teenage Bash has spent months reliving memories of the car accident in which his mother died, drifting away from his friends and his seemingly put-together twin. When Bash dreams about the Styx, Zan discovers that Bash is a wayward soul marked for the Ferryman. As the teens grow closer over the course of several dreams—and as Bash becomes increasingly eager to return to the Styx—Zan frantically searches for a way to keep Bash alive, even if it means sacrificing everything he’s worked five centuries to achieve. Zan’s paranormal grapples with the Ferryman help to accentuate the narrative’s gothic elements while Bash’s struggles to be present in his own life—along with the myriad bittersweet realities surrounding grief this challenge entails—add texture to Kulwicki’s captivating queer romance debut. Bash and Zan cue as white. Ages 14–up. Agent: Connor Eck, Lucinda Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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Spells to Forget Us

Aislinn Brophy. Putnam, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-593-35455-1

The lives of two Boston teens—one witch and one nonmagical mortal—are turned upside down following their meeting and subsequent decision to date in this enchanting second-chance romance by Brophy (How to Succeed in Witchcraft). Aoife Walsh, who has light brown skin, is part of an influencer family whose business revolves around creating content about her life. Black teen witch Luna Gold is trying to ignore her family legacy. As next in line to head the Witch Council, Luna can’t be caught associating with a “mundane” like Aoife. While Luna struggles to navigate her duties and her desire to live a more typical teenage life, Aoife desperately tries to free herself from her content creator parents’ camera lens. Determined to make their relationship work, Luna persuades Aoife to undergo a ceremony that Luna believes will make their lives easier—but there’s a steep price to pay. Conversations surrounding colorism and fetishization, and their effects on the girls and their relationship, occur alongside increasingly comical magical antics. The result is a charming tale about a persistent teen whose every effort to make true love run smoothly results in further calamity. Ages 12–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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The Curse of Madame Petrova

Marjolijn Hof, trans. from the Dutch by
Bill Nagelkerke, illus. by Annette Fienieg. Levine Querido, $18.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-64614-453-2

After fortune teller Madame Petrova prophesized that twins Silke and Janis would kill each other, their parents separated them. Upon their parents’ deaths, cousins return Janis to the family manor, Holderstate, intending to usurp the estate once the prophecy is fulfilled. Determined to take control of their lives, Silke and Janis fake their deaths and go on the run. Living off the land and traversing through woods is challenging for the siblings, and the myriad adversities they face are more so. Poachers and petty crooks take advantage of Silke and Janis’s naivety until the siblings are taken in by entertainers Loore and Ranno, who expect hard work from the twins in exchange for their hospitality. Loore trains Silke as a card reader, while Ranno and dancing bear Trine take Janis underwing. And though Silke starts believing that the prophecy may be fake, her and her brother’s mounting debts could mean they will never be truly free. Via immersive descriptions of the historical European-feeling setting, Hof (Against the Odds) captures the dark whimsy of a classic fairy tale. Etching press artwork by Fienieg depicting the cards Silke uses to tell fortunes begin each chapter. Characters cue as white. Ages 10–14. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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A Two-Placed Heart

Doan Phuong Nguyen. Tu, $24.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64379-642-0

In this yearning verse novel by Nguyen (Mèo and Bé), an older sister endeavors to connect her sibling to their Vietnamese heritage. Twelve-year-old Bom is concerned by her younger sister Bo’s fading memories of Vietnam. The siblings communicate in English despite Ba’s scolding and the fact that Má “doesn’t understand/ the English words we use.” Noticing that “my tiêng Viêt disappears/ a little at a time,” Bom wonders “what kind of person doesn’t know/ their own language?” As an aspiring writer, Bom decides to transcribe her family’s history, addressing her writings to Bo. Bom recalls the hardships her family endured in Vietnam, describing what she knows of her father’s seven-year imprisonment in 1975 after the Vietnam War, her parents’ subsequent arranged marriage, and her and Bo’s births. She goes on to chronicle their new life in 1996 Tennessee, following their sponsorship from a Nashville Presbyterian church in 1991. Nguyen’s touching fictionalization of personal experiences, as addressed in an author’s note, reflects the push-pull of a young immigrant’s fear that with acclimation comes loss of cultural identity. Includes a pronunciation guide, glossary, and family tree. Ages 9–13. Agent: Sara Megibow, KT Literary. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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Library Girl

Polly Horvath. Holiday House/Ferguson, $18.99 (256p) ISBN 978-0-823455-67-6

Essie was raised in secret by four librarians after being discovered as a baby in the children’s department of an Indiana library. Fearing kidnapping charges, the quartet devise a system to keep Essie in the building, unbeknownst to the establishment’s timid director. Loved “extravagantly” by her four mothers, Essie befriends library patrons, but she’s never left the grounds and yearns for a family that includes siblings. At age 11, Essie’s moms supply her with a bicycle, an allowance, and permission to explore the four blocks around the library, which include a pedestrian mall, a candy store, and two department stores. Despite some disappointing interactions and purchases, Essie thoroughly enjoys her weekly outings. But when she meets G.E., a boy who resembles her and appears to live in one of the department stores, she starts to wonder if they are twins separated at birth. Essie’s earnest longing for siblings and an expanded support network—rendered in a chatty, deadpan tone by Horvath (Pine Island Visitors)—impart relatable emotional depth to this laboriously quirky tale. Essie and G.E. read as white. Ages 9–12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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The Sherlock Society (The Sherlock Society #1)

James Ponti. Aladdin, $18.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-6659-3253-0

Inspired in part by their last name, 12-year-old Alex Sherlock and his 13-year-old sister Zoe, joined by their retired reporter grandfather and friends Yadi and Lina, found the Sherlock Society detective agency in a bid to earn money over the summer. When their initial attempts to rustle up business fail, they pivot toward investigating one of Grandpa’s cold cases surrounding Al Capone’s legendary lost fortune “buried somewhere in south Florida.” As they follow decades-old clues across Miami and into the Everglades, the Sherlock Society encounters contemporary crimes pertaining to illegal waste dumping, prompting them to seek out the culprits. While Grandpa instructs the Sherlock Society in the ways of reporting and investigation, Ponti (Mission Manhattan) keeps things authentic with the invocation of laws and proper procedure in their pursuit to take down a powerful, wealthy foe. With an eye for atmosphere, history, and lively humor, Ponti brings the South Florida setting, as well as its quick-witted inhabitants, to vivid life, making for a worthy successor to classic kid mysteries that’s entertaining, educational, and exciting. Yadi cues as being of Cuban heritage; other characters read as white. Ages 8–12. Agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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After the Wallpaper Music

Jean Mills. Pajama, $18.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-77278-322-3

During the day, eighth grader Flora plays violin with her longtime friends in the Arden String Quartet; her evenings are devoted to learning Newfoundland fiddle music from Auntie Flora, her elderly namesake. When Simon DeLuca joins her class following a tragedy befalling his famous rock star family, Flora can’t help but pay attention to the newcomer, a rarity in her small town. But he’s standoffish when her friends try to welcome him. Simultaneously, Flora struggles to feel enthusiastic about the announcement of a local Battle of the Bands competition, even when her friends choose to perform a video game piece she enjoys. A gradual show of friendship from Simon, though—and his exciting request that she join his band to play her violin in a new retro rock style—creates conflicts with her friends. And then Auntie Flora is hospitalized. Mills (Bliss Adair and the First Rule of Knitting) employs a cozy writing style that is both breezy and immersive. Poignant life lessons and a focus on the emotions evoked by music permeate this soulful novel; a playlist at the end includes all referenced pieces. Flora and Simon read as white. Ages 8–12. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 06/14/2024 | Details & Permalink

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