Shelf Awareness for Readers for Friday, November 12, 2021

Roaring Brook Press: Juniper's Christmas by Eoin Colfer

From My Shelf

'The Tools We Make End Up Shaping Us'

"We perceive the world not as it is, but as it is useful to us," neuroscientist Anil Seth observes in Being You: A New Science of Consciousness (Dutton, $28). I kept thinking about this as my recent reading seemed to focus on aspects of consciousness. I'm not really looking for answers, just enjoying a stroll along the border between science and creative speculation.

When the Sparrow Falls (Tor Books, $26.99) by Neil Sharpson is a compelling, futuristic novel featuring Nikolai Andreivich South, a disaffected state security agent for the last human-ruled country (the dysfunctional Caspian Republic) in an AI-dominated world. He must unravel an intricate, sometimes deeply personal mystery that includes, among many complexities, the crime (or is it?) of contran, "as we called it, an ugly contraction of the even uglier 'Consciousness Transferal,' and there were procedures to be followed."

Un-su Kim's novel The Cabinet, translated by Sean Lin Halbert (Angry Robot, $14.99), which explores hidden often surreal depths of human consciousness (and sub-consciousness), offered me this: "Those who argue for the sanctity of humanity express grave concern over the fusion of man and machine.... If people like this exist around you, I hope you tell them that the time for such things has yet to come. We still have a long time before we connect human brains to computers. After all, we still don't even fully understand how migraines are caused."

Levels of consciousness are always in play when human vulnerability collides with the Internet's tangled web. Olivia Sudjic's novel Sympathy (Mariner Books, $14.99) follows Alice Hare down a social media rabbit hole as we observe a version of her consciousness seeking to meld her real and virtual life with that of her idol, Mizuko.

In an interview with Vice, Sudjic said: "I feel like there are these age-old human frailties that technology can take advantage of. The point is that, throughout history, the tools we make end up shaping us." Anil Seth might agree. --Robert Gray, contributing editor

BINC: Read Love Support Campaign

The Writer's Life

Reading with... Steven Reigns

photo: Gabriel Goldberg

Steven Reigns, Los Angeles poet and educator, was appointed the first Poet Laureate of West Hollywood. He is the author of two collections, Inheritance and Your Dead Body Is My Welcome Mat, and more than a dozen chapbooks. Reigns edited My Life Is Poetry, showcasing his students' work from the first autobiographical poetry workshop for LGBTQ seniors. Reigns has lectured and taught writing workshops around the country to LGBTQ youth and people living with HIV. He is touring The Gay Rub, an exhibition of rubbings from LGBTQ landmarks around the world, and has a private practice as a psychotherapist. His latest book is A Quilt for David (City Lights, September 14, 2021), the hidden history of a gay doctor whose life and death were turned into tabloid fodder in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic.

On your nightstand now:

Firebrat by Mike Diana. I know, I know, it's not the book one might expect a poet to have on their nightstand. Diana's work is wonderfully outrageous and unexpected and bizarre. It's also fascinating that he's the only artist in America to receive a criminal conviction for artistic obscenity. The book I'm reading after is Amy Gerstler's Index of Women.

Favorite book when you were a child:

I dearly loved The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I now owe so many personal therapy hours to deprogramming the terrible codependent messaging it implanted.

Your top five authors:

Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore--I can always count on Mattilda's writing to spark new thoughts, ideas and recalibrate my emotions.

Natalie Goldberg--we were all introduced to her through her breakout book, Writing Down the Bones. While that has continually been in print and still selling wildly, she's been writing these incredible memoirs and other books about writing and painting. Check out Long Quiet Highway, Wild Mind and her brand new book, Three Simple Lines

David Trinidad--David's poetry is loaded with pop culture but well-crafted and with heart. He's also a great champion of writers, editing and publishing poets who have passed too early or gone out of print. The poetry community is better because of him.

Collin Kelley--I feel like we share so many sensibilities and interests; his poems are a joy to read. He's been threatening a new and selected collection, which I'd love to happen.

Anaïs Nin--the world opened to me when I first discovered her writing.

Book you've faked reading:

Moby-Dick. I never finished it. At page 90 they hadn't even left port. I didn't have the patience for it 25 years ago and haven't picked it up since. In Pam Houston's debut, Cowboys Are My Weakness, there's a character who falsely tells men at bars about how she once rode a mechanical bull and won. She's told the story so many times she almost believes it to be true. I feel that way about Moby-Dick. It's easy to forget I haven't read the entire thing.

Book you're an evangelist for:

The most recent book I've preached is Julie E. Bloemeke's Slide to Unlock. It's a collection about love and longing without being overly sentimental or sappy. During the pandemic I kept giving it out as gifts.

Book you've bought for the cover:

The Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson, published by the Peter Pauper Press in the late '50s. On the cover and throughout are these beautiful red/orange inked woodcuts by Jeff Hill. They have such a midcentury modern feel to them and could easily be framed artwork on the wall.

Book you hid from your parents:

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (but Were Afraid to Ask) by Dr. David Reuben. I bought it at a used book sale at age 15. The title was appealing, but more than sex itself, I really wanted to know about being gay and gay sex. Homosexuals had over 40 entries in the index. At home, in my bedroom, I went directly to page 129, the section on homosexuals. The book had lines like "The homosexual who prefers to use his penis must find an anus. Many look in the refrigerator. The most common masturbatory object for this purpose is a melon. Cantaloupes are usual, but where it is available, papaya is popular." Gay men regularly have sex with fruit?!?! This book is where I got the biggest miseducation on gay life that I could have ever received.

Book that changed your life:

Sapphire's American Dreams really rocked my world. Her honesty, daringness and ability to hold complexities was refreshing. She used different forms and told hard truths. That book still holds up, and so do her subsequent books.

Favorite line from a book:

"The truth is simple, you do not die from love. You only wish you did." --Erica Jong from Becoming Light

Five books you'll never part with:

The Diary of Anaïs Nin by Anaïs Nin
Love Poems by Anne Sexton
Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
How to Love a Country by Richard Blanco
Truth Serum by Bernard Cooper

Book you most want to read again for the first time:

I would love to again feel the awe and exhilaration I felt when first reading the anthology High Risk: An Anthology of Forbidden Writings, edited by Amy Scholder and Ira Silverberg. What's thrilling is that Amy Scholder is my editor for A Quilt for David. The publishing of this book feels very full circle for me. I remember picking up High Risk from the St. Louis Public Library and devouring it in the living room on a papasan chair (didn't everyone have one of those chairs in the '90s?). I wanted to be a writer like those in the book I was holding.

Book Candy

Kind Reads for Kind Kids

In anticipation of World Kindness Day, the New York Public Library recommended some "kind reads for kind kids."


Mental Floss explored "the strange history of the worst sentence in English literature."


Author Stuart Jeffries picked his top 10 postmodern books for the Guardian.


Redemption for Dr. Watson: Olivia Rutigliano "reads the detective duo as a brilliant double-act, designed by Watson himself." (via CrimeReads)


Bookgown fashion. "The book-man and the physician: Evolution from sketch to engraving in a medium quality plate by Nicolas I de Larmessin by Pascale Cugy." (via Bookshelf)

Great Reads

Rediscover: Men Without Women

Drive My Car, a film based a short story of the same name by Haruki Murakami, opens in New York on November 24 and Los Angeles on December 3. "Drive My Car" was first included in Murakami's 2014 book Men Without Women, a collection of stories about men who have lost women in their lives. "Drive My Car" follows a widowed actor who hires a chauffeur after his license is revoked for drunk driving. Kafuku, the actor, bonds with the younger female driver, Misaki, on trips around Tokyo, mainly over stories about his unfaithful late wife. Men Without Women also includes the titular tale, along with "Yesterday," "An Independent Organ," "Scheherazade," "Kino" and "Samsa in Love."

Drive My Car stars Hidetoshi Nishijima as Kafuku and Tōko Miura as Misaki. It premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, where it won three awards, including Best Screenplay. Drive My Car is the Japanese entry for Best International Feature Film at the next Academy Awards. It currently enjoys a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Watch the trailer here. Men Without Women is available from Vintage International ($16.95). --Tobias Mutter

Book Review


The Island of Missing Trees

by Elif Shafak

In The Island of Missing Trees, true love wars with catastrophic division over multiple generations. It is a devastating but magical story from British-Turkish writer Elif Shafak, a 2019 Booker Prize finalist for 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World.

"Love is the bold affirmation of hope.... You don't fall in love in Cyprus in the summer of 1974," but Greek Christian Kostas and Turkish Muslim Defne do fall deliriously for each other. They hide their taboo relationship from their families, meeting at a tavern owned by two men who understand that love can bring danger. Decades later, the two leave Cyprus for London, Kostas carrying a fig sapling from the tavern and Defne carrying a child. Many years afterward, Kostas and their teen daughter, Ada, struggle to relate to each other and cope with their grief after Defne's death. The arrival of Defne's sister, Meryem, whom Ada has never met, shakes up the fractured household but could hold the seeds of healing. The now-grown fig tree steals the narrative spotlight with asides to readers in her eloquent, sensitive voice, especially when holding forth on the rich, hidden lives of her botanical brethren.

Images of transformation and transition gracefully emerge and recur as Shafak explores what love can and cannot heal. Her moving depiction of inherited trauma will stay with readers, as will her insightful nods to war's effects on the natural world. Despite the unfortunate decision to kill off some important characters, this tragic tale tempered by enduring love and a fantastical ending is an overall triumph. --Jaclyn Fulwood, blogger at Infinite Reads

Discover: This devastating but magical love story follows star-crossed lovers in 1974 Cyprus and a special fig tree.

Bloomsbury, $27, hardcover, 368p., 9781635578591


by Sarah Hall

In Sarah Hall's fiercely realistic sixth novel, Burntcoat, a sculptor comes to terms with her mortality as she relives experiences of love and caregiving.

Edith Harkness, 59, knows she won't live to see her latest burnt-wood sculpture installed; she's still suffering the aftereffects of the deadly novavirus. Her studio, Burntcoat, was a refuge for her and her lover, Turkish restaurateur Halit, during the pandemic and lockdown, but became a prison as her illness persisted.

Marked by vivid detail and matter-of-fact prose, Edith's reminiscences skip around in time. Gradually, flashes of memory fill in a turbulent past: her beloved stepmother Naomi's recovery from a stroke, their life in a remote English cottage, an abusive relationship during art school, learning woodcraft in Japan and finding early critical success.

It is difficult to avoid reading this as a compact Covid-19 parable. Nova seems worse than Covid, both medically and societally--it's led to looting, violence and breadlines. Through Edith's chronic form, Hall (Madame Zero) imagines the long-lasting effects Covid may have on our societies.

While Hall's picture of human vulnerability--including the rigors and indignities of caregiving for the sick--is bleak, the laser focus on the physical is an opportunity for her to posit sex and creativity as means of coping with trauma and isolation and for building resilience. Death cannot obliterate art for, as the novel's defiant first line declares, "Those who tell stories survive." Unapologetically sensual and intellectual in the vein of Rachel Cusk and Siri Hustvedt, Burntcoat is a story for our times. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

Discover: In this timely story of a sculptor coping with the aftermath of a pandemic, sex and art are held up as ways of defying isolation and death.

Custom House, $27.99, hardcover, 224p., 9780062657107


by Domenico Starnone, trans. by Jhumpa Lahiri

In Trust, National Book Award-shortlisted author Domenico Starnone (Trick; Ties) provides a sharp and unsettling exploration of the dread and tension that undergirds passion. High school teacher Pietro is embroiled in a fervent and volatile relationship with his former student, the brilliant and unpredictable Teresa. Eager to bind the two of them together forever, Teresa proposes that they tell each other their worst secrets. Not long after doing so, they break up and Pietro meets someone new. As the years go by and Pietro marries, has children and rises in academic fame, his paranoia that Teresa will share his terrible secret with the world reaches unmanageable heights, particularly when Teresa is invited by his daughter to speak at a ceremony in his honor.

Pulsating with dread, Trust invites readers into the mind of a man anticipating a drastic reckoning. The slow-burn plot earns its suspense through the intricately connected and constantly shifting relations of power between the novel's two leads. Pietro's conversational first-person narration proves as engrossing as it is cringe-worthy and eye-roll-inducing in its misogyny and narcissism. His mesmeric rise in fame creates an ever-heightening fear of falling for the character and for readers, who, like Teresa, will become invested in Pietro despite their better judgment. Darkly humorous at times and emotionally cutting at others, Pietro's sections of the novel are as fascinating as they are quietly disturbing. But it is the brief sections from his daughter's and Teresa's perspectives that bring Pietro's story into sharp relief, allowing for an ending that is both menacing and cathartic. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor

Discover: Trust, which luxuriates in both the elation and unease of intimacy, is an understated literary portrait of the ambiguities of taboo relationships.

Europa Editions, $17, paperback, 144p., 9781609457037

Mystery & Thriller

Psycho by the Sea

by Lynne Truss

Fans of the Constable Twitten series have cause to rejoice--and, as always, worry a little, too. In the incessantly amusing Psycho by the Sea, the lunatics are still running the insane asylum that is 1957 Brighton, England, at least as conceived by mystery writer (Cat Out of Hell; The Man That Got Away) and punctuation czar (Eats, Shoots and Leaves) Lynne Truss.

In the fourth title of the series, Constable Peregrine Wilberforce Twitten has been with the Brighton Police for three months--long enough to have learned that his two superiors are imbeciles. Only Twitten has deduced that the station's charlady, Mrs. Groynes, is a criminal mastermind, although he lacks proof. This may change after he is given an envelope containing a photograph of Mrs. Groynes with London gang boss Terence Chambers, who was recently shot dead by Inspector Steine. Right now, however, the police's top priority is locating Geoffrey Chaucer, an escapee from a psychiatric hospital with an unfortunate habit of murdering cops. ("In the annals of crime," muses the novel's omniscient narrator, "it's surprising how few violent criminals have shared their names with those of the great English poets.")

Once again, Truss has some fun with midcentury preoccupations; figuring into her rewardingly elaborate plot are the "new" science of motivation research, a "futuristic" electric kettle and one dangerously overzealous Freudian. If P.G. Wodehouse had written a mystery starring the Keystone Kops, it would have read something like Psycho by the Sea, but it might not have been as funny. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: The fourth Constable Twitten mystery is a Wodehousian delight, in which the witless Brighton Police are up against an escaped psychiatric patient with a penchant for killing cops.

Raven Books, $27, hardcover, 320p., 9781526609878

All Her Little Secrets

by Wanda M. Morris

Wanda M. Morris's fast-paced and thrilling debut, the aptly named All Her Little Secrets, reveals the many, many secrets collected over the years of one woman's life--and what happens when they eventually catch up to her.

Ellice Littlejohn shows the world the woman she wants them to see: "Smart. Tempered. Ellice Littlejohn, the consummate professional." What she hides behind that façade, though, is far more complicated--and potentially dangerous: a childhood spent in poverty in Chillicothe, Ga., with an alcoholic mother and abusive cop for a stepfather. An unlikely scholarship to a prestigious boarding school, and a brother left behind on her departure. A misguided affair with her married boss, executive v-p and general counsel of Houghton Transportation Company, which has only a handful of female employees and even fewer employees of color. These secrets feel entirely disconnected from Ellice's reality as the only Black employee in the legal department--until she finds her boss dead in his office before the crack of dawn one weekday morning.

This brutal discovery falls at the very start of All Her Little Secrets, and Ellice continues that fast-paced run from her past for as long as she can. Her desperation to keep that personal history hidden boxes her and her younger brother into an increasingly impossible corner. Morris's debut will prove perfect for readers looking for thrillers that reveal dark secrets and twisted webs of lies alongside hard truths about racism and sexism in corporate America. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm

Discover: A tightly paced debut thriller pits the lone Black lawyer in a large corporation against a web of lies and conspiracies that threaten to reveal dangerous secrets from her past.

Morrow, $16.99, paperback, 384p., 9780063082465

Science Fiction & Fantasy

A Marvellous Light

by Freya Marske

Freya Marske begins the Last Binding series with a romantic, fascinating historical fantasy debut, A Marvellous Light. The book starts with an intense scene in which a magic-using government employee, Reggie, is tortured for information, an event that kicks off a race to find a magical contract that could change the world forever.

It's 1908, and Robin Blyth's first day at his government post in London is a bit of a disaster. As Reggie's replacement, he is expected to know about magic, but is instead "unbusheled" and is shocked to learn that there is a magical society operating unseen all around him. His colleague Edwin Courcey has little patience for Robin's ignorance and is eager to find Reggie and bring him back. When Robin is attacked in an alley that night by faceless men and cursed until he retrieves the contract for them, Edwin realizes that Reggie's disappearance is part of something much bigger and more sinister than he imagined.

Robin and Edwin's relationship builds slowly as they work together, their initial bad impressions melting away as friendship and then romantic attraction take hold. Marske's writing strikes the right balance, with lovely descriptions of the world she's built and the relationships between her large but not unwieldy cast of characters. For example, magic-users employ complicated hand gestures to work their spells, a process she likens to the game of cat's cradle: "Edwin pulled out his cradling string and built a spell that created a syrupy rainbow shimmer between his hands, like petroleum on puddles."

A murderous hedge maze, a game of booby-trapped boating, searing intimacy and a doozy of a final act make for a read that's in turn funny, romantic and anxiety-inducing. --Suzanne Krohn, editor, Love in Panels

Discover: Freya Marske's debut is a captivating historical fantasy novel filled with adventure, mystery and romance.

Tordotcom, $27.99, hardcover, 384p., 9781250788870

Biography & Memoir

Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture

by Justine Picardie

If it's possible to write a biography of a time and place, then Justine Picardie has done precisely this with Miss Dior: A Story of Courage and Couture. Nominally a biography of fashion designer Christian Dior's younger sister Catherine, who was awarded the Légion d'honneur for her role in the French Resistance, the book is actually a doggedly researched, wide-angle look at the German Occupation's toll on France's beau monde.

In 1944, while Christian's career as a couturier was ascendant, Catherine (1917-2008), who had been an active part of a Resistance network, was arrested in Paris, tortured and deported to Ravensbrück, the women's concentration camp in Germany. When she returned to Paris the following year, Catherine started a flower business and confided little in her family and friends about her wartime ordeal.

Such reticence makes for a tricky biographical subject, as does the fact that Catherine didn't write about herself, had no offspring and, with Christian's sudden death in 1957, moved to the village of Callian, where she devoted the rest of her long life to gardening. (Catherine cultivated the jasmine and roses that were signature fragrances of Miss Dior, the perfume her brother had named for her.) The resourceful Picardie (Coco Chanel: The Legend and the Life) taps Resistance archives and memoirs by Catherine's fellow resistants and unearths a wealth of archival photos in order to piece together her subject's experience. Catherine is not always central in Miss Dior, but when she is, she represents exquisite grace under fire. --Nell Beram, author and freelance writer

Discover: Nominally a biography of designer Christian Dior's sister Catherine, who inspired the titular perfume, Miss Dior is an effulgent ode to the woman and her French Resistance compatriots.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $40, hardcover, 448p., 9780374210359

Psychology & Self-Help

The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning

by Paul Bloom

In The Sweet Spot: The Pleasures of Suffering and the Search for Meaning, Yale University psychology professor Paul Bloom makes a spirited argument for the proposition that instead of being motivated by the simple desire to seek pleasure and avoid pain, "under the right circumstances and in the right doses, physical pain and emotional pain, difficulty and failure and loss, are exactly what we are looking for."

Consistent with Bloom's thesis, there's a term--"motivational pluralism"--coined by the economist Tyler Cowen that describes his perspective on the complex, sometimes conflicting desires that drive human behavior. Among his several goals in the book, he says, is to provide a "broader picture of human nature," one that recognizes that, rather than pure hedonism, "we are inclined toward something deeper and more transcendent."

As demanded by the ambitious scope of his subject, Bloom (Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion) marshals a large body of evidence, including numerous scientific studies. In a given chapter he may rely on material from an experiment in the field of happiness studies by the well-known psychologist Daniel Kahneman alongside an account from a mixed martial arts fighter that illustrates how "the terrible can morph into the transcendent," followed by a summary of an Ursula Le Guin short story about a land whose inhabitants pay a terrible price for their happiness. His resources are both eclectic and intellectually stimulating.

The Sweet Spot is certain both to spark reflection and not a few vigorous rebuttals. Regardless of where one lands on its central themes, it's consistently provocative, thoughtful and often sheer fun to read. --Harvey Freedenberg, freelance reviewer

Discover: Psychologist Paul Bloom explores how the experience of suffering is essential in giving meaning to our lives.

Ecco, $27.99, hardcover, 304p., 9780062910561


The Last Winter: The Scientists, Adventurers, Journeymen, and Mavericks Trying to Save the World

by Porter Fox

Avid skier and climatology journalist Porter Fox (Northland) is worried about the end of winter and what it means for the world. In his compelling, thoroughly researched third book, The Last Winter, Fox chronicles his travels to interview the people who are measuring, researching and trying to preserve winter. He meets brilliant, idiosyncratic characters who love the cold: skiers, climbing guides, dogsledders, earth scientists and glaciologists whose work captures a wealth of data and can help improve climate policy--if only world leaders will listen.

Fox tries to keep up (often literally) with his interviewees, asking questions and doing his best to translate their work into layperson's terms. Despite his best efforts, the data can get a bit dense as well as daunting. But Fox also turns his journalist's eye to his own (sometimes harrowing) journeys across glaciers, over mountains and through frozen tundra, going beyond statistics to remind readers of winter's beauty and power. He discusses the present and potential effects of global warming: sea level rise, habitat loss, stronger wildfires and storms, freshwater scarcity and more. But he also insists that winter matters to the human spirit, that it shapes the identities of communities around the world.

The Last Winter is a travelogue, climatology brief and warning bell: Fox and his colleagues cannot save the climate by themselves. Fox's account is an urgent call to savor winter while it still exists--and figure out a way to ensure it doesn't disappear. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams

Discover: Journalist Porter Fox gives readers a brisk tour of the world's cold places and sounds a compelling warning about the end of winter.

Little, Brown, $28, hardcover, 320p., 9780316460927

Health & Medicine

Rebel Homemaker: Food, Family, Life

by Drew Barrymore, Pilar Valdes

A cookbook collector who owns several hundred of them, Drew Barrymore wanted her debut cookbook to be "very personal and eclectic and messy and real." Rebel Homemaker is all of those things, but it's also beautifully designed (filled with personal photographs) and enriched with charming, heartfelt and funny personal essays sprinkled between the recipes.

The book's recipes and essays are arranged by meal, beginning with breakfast and ending with dinner, sides and salads. Most recipes include instructions for preparing food in advance (including poached eggs!) with advice on how to preserve them and reheat them properly. Vegetarian, soup and fish dishes are prominent, with standouts including blackened tuna in lettuce cups; Coconut Fish Kilawin (using snapper or blackfish); Stovetop Scampi; squash gratin with cashew cream; and the sweet and salty Korean stir-fried noodle dish Japchae. But meat-lovers will enjoy her Vietnamese lemongrass beef skewers, pepper steak and shredded beef--"It's better the next day," she promises. Some of her simplest recipes look the most delicious--including a brie and apple grilled cheese sandwich and a watermelon with pistachio dukkah dish.

Barrymore's lyrical and relaxed essays range from the joys and struggles of cooking for and with her two daughters during the pandemic shutdown, advice on table seating ("Don't space people out too much, because you immediately lose more people to talk to"), and creating her line of Beautiful cookware, which replaces knobs and dials with touchscreens. Rebel Homemaker is as charming as its author. --Kevin Howell, independent reviewer and marketing consultant

Discover: Drew Barrymore mixes charming and funny essays with quick and easy recipes to create one of the tastiest cookbooks of the year.

Dutton, $30, hardcover, 240p., 9780593184103

Children's & Young Adult


by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

Readers of Laura Vaccaro Seeger's previous picture-book homages to color--the Caldecott Honoree Green and its follow-up, Blue--may have anticipated the publication of the ravishing Red. What they probably couldn't have foreseen was Seeger's turn toward a dramatic story; as she puts it in her author's note, she's focusing on "red as in anger and discord, but also as in love and compassion."

As with Red's predecessors, Seeger pairs the sparest rhyming text with lovingly labored-over die-cut art. A spread featuring the words "light red" finds a little red fox sleeping on a rock at sunrise; three mushrooms in the scene become, with the turn of a die-cut page, three rocks in an expanse of grass on which the fox finds itself alone: "lost red." One page later, the fox is caught after dark in a car's headlights: "bright red." As the story proceeds, types of red continue to correspond with the fox's circumstances, as when the "rust red" of some nails leads to "blood red"--an injured paw.

Seeger's acrylics are up to the heavy lifting required by a minimal text. Each spread wears its brushstrokes with pride, the paint at times thin enough to let the canvas peek through. The technique reminds attentive readers of the human presence behind Red, which aligns with the book's message: while the specter of danger looms over the fox, human kindness prevails in the form of a girl who plays a key role in the story. In her author's note, Seeger nudges readers to consider that the girl may have played a part in a previous book in the author's mind-expanding triad. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: This gorgeous picture book features a fox for whom the titular color corresponds with both danger and salvation.

Neal Porter Books, $18.99, hardcover, 40p., ages 4-8, 9780823447121

Bad Girls Never Say Die

by Jennifer Mathieu

More than a half century since the publication of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, the young adult novel's message about the perniciousness of classism still needs broadcasting. With Bad Girls Never Say Die, Jennifer Mathieu has rather ingeniously taken the social dynamics of The Outsiders and refocused them on a pack of teenage girls whose low status in 1964 Houston is both a mark against their future prospects and a unifying force.

Fifteen-year-old Evie Barnes considers her four-girl posse at Eastside High her true family: "In my mind we're four corners of a tiny square, drawn close to protect ourselves from the rest of the world." But Evie's friends aren't there to protect her the night Preston Fowler, a rich boy, tries to rape her. Her unlikely rescuer is Diane Farris, who Evie comes to think of as "this strange girl from the right side of the tracks who had the guts to save my life." Diane's only recourse against Preston was a switchblade, and using it proved fatal. After the girls flee the murder scene, they lie low and bond over their predicament. A few days after the murder, the cops pick up an Eastside boy as a suspect; as Evie puts it, "Who was going to believe a bunch of kids from the wrong side of the tracks over tea sippers with daddies in important places?"

Bad Girls Never Say Die offers a guided tour through outdated thinking about gender, especially the idea that it's the girl's fault when she's pursued by an aggressively libidinous male. The book has some stock characters, but Mathieu (Moxie) is supremely good at getting at the intuitive feminism of the disadvantaged teenage girls anchoring her story. Bad Girls Never Say Die isn't a corrective to Hinton's timeless work; it's a worthy expansion. --Nell Beram, freelance writer and YA author

Discover: Teenage girls are at the center of this inspired feminist spin on S.E. Hinton's beloved young adult novel The Outsiders.

Roaring Brook Press, $18.99, hardcover, 304p., ages 12-up, 9781250232588

All of Us Villains

by Amanda Foody, Christine Lynn Herman

Christine Lynn Herman (The Devouring Gray) and Amanda Foody (Daughter of the Burning City) bring their darkly beautiful talents to All of Us Villains, an enthralling and bloody YA novel of secrets, betrayals, magic and murder.

In Ilvernath, high magick, "the purest essence of power," is controlled by one family. Every 20 years, seven cursed families must send a teen champion into a secret battle to the death to win the magick. This year, an anonymous author wrote a tell-all book about the families' clandestine route to power, giving haunting insights into the tournament's history. Now, for the first time, an enraged public is watching.

Each of the "Slaughter Seven" (as the tabloids name them) has their own reasons to kill to win: protecting family, restarting life on the other side of this tournament, being taken seriously. Among them are former lovers, ex-friends and mortal enemies, all with grudges informing their strategies and many secretly backed by the best local cursemaker. When an unexpected entrant suggests the tournament system is imperfect, the Seven must bury their base hostilities and lifelong distrust to see if the curse can be broken.

Foody and Herman enchant with vicious battles, a fun magic system and intricate, tenacious characters with deadly charm. Intense interactions precede the tournament, complicating individual motivations and making sympathetic the most brutal champions. Excerpts from the anonymous book add exceptional worldbuilding to the disturbing traditions, familial lore and generational rivalries. All of Us Villains is a suspense-filled, high-stakes magical battle royal with alliances that shift as quickly as they form, queer representation and pairings that will incite revelrous shipping. --Samantha Zaboski, freelance editor and reviewer

Discover: Seven teens, harboring secrets, advantages, curses and betrayals, battle in a death tournament to win their family sole ownership of high magick in this spellbinding YA fantasy.

Tor Teen, $18.99, hardcover, 400p., ages 13-up, 9781250789259

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