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Reviews of the 2018 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction and Poetry Award Winner and Honor Books

Fiction and Poetry Winner

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
High School    HarperTeen    361 pp.    g
3/18    978-0-06-266280-4    $17.99
e-book ed.  978-0-06-266282-8    $9.99

Fifteen-year-old Xiomara, whose name means “one who is ready for war,” has been fighting her whole life. The self-described “brown and big and angry” Dominican girl from Harlem furiously confronts catcalling boys, chafes under her Catholic parents’ restrictive rules, and both adores and resents her “genius” twin brother, who seems to be everything she’s not. She finds moments of peace by writing in her poetry journal, joining a spoken-word poetry club, and exploring a blossoming romance with Aman, her science partner. The slow-burning suspense of what will transpire when devout Mami discovers Xiomara and Aman’s clandestine relationship is eclipsed only by the devastation that occurs when Mami finds and reads Xiomara’s candid journal. But Xiomara must brave Mami’s ire if she is ever going to realize her writing dream. Spoken-word artist Acevedo’s debut verse novel is an arresting portrait of a young poet coming into her own. In nearly every poem, there is at least one universal truth about adolescence, family, gender, race, religion, or sexuality that will have readers either nodding in grateful acknowledgment or blinking away tears. “It almost feels like / the more I bruise the page / the quicker something inside me heals.” JENNIFER HUBERT SWAN

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

Honor Books

The Parker Inheritance
by Varian Johnson
Intermediate, Middle School    Levine/Scholastic    344 pp.    g
3/18    978-0-545-94617-9    $16.99
e-book ed.  978-0-545-95279-8    $10.99

In 2007 Abigail Caldwell, the first female and African American city manager for 
the town of Lambert, South Carolina, was forced to resign after covertly digging 
up the municipal tennis courts, looking for buried treasure. Now, a decade later, 
the late Abigail’s twelve-year-old granddaughter Candice is following the same arcane clues, hoping to uncover the Parker inheritance — but who was Parker? 
Johnson’s Westing Game–inspired tale is a tangled historical mystery, a satisfying multigenerational family story, and an exploration of twentieth-century (and contemporary) race and racism. Chapters alternate between the present, in which Candice grapples with making new friends, dealing with her parents’ divorce, and puzzling together information, and the past, particularly 1957, when a secret, integrated high school tennis match led to a violent racist attack. Johnson’s narrative revels in its puzzle-story elements (“She leaned back in the chair and spun in place. Maybe we’re reading this too literally. Maybe it’s more figurative. Like, if it’s a sum, maybe we should convert the clues to numbers”), and his protagonist is intelligent, endearing, and believable; scenes with her father, especially, have both humor and poignancy. Well-placed textual clues keep historical context and race relations at the front of readers’ minds — and examining those constructs, ingeniously, provides the key to solving the mystery. ELISSA GERSHOWITZ

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

 

The First Rule of Punk
by Celia C. Pérez; illus. by the author
Intermediate, Middle School    Viking    319 pp.    g
8/17    978-0-425-29040-8    $16.99

[Books by Horn Book reviewers are not reviewed; we provide notice of publication and descriptive comment.]

The first rule of punk is to be yourself, but it’s hard for Malú, the bicultural daughter of divorced parents, to know exactly what that means. Her white dad doesn’t understand her internal struggles with her Mexican American identity, and her mom would rather Malú were more “señorita” than punk. Starting a band becomes a chance to explore her heritage as well as her musical interests. Eight-page “zines” featuring Malú’s collages punctuate the text. HORN BOOK EDITORS

From the July/August 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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