Reviews of the 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Fiction and Poetry Award Winner and Honor Books

Fiction and Poetry Winner

Warrior Girl Unearthed Warrior Girl Unearthed
by Angeline Boulley
High School    Holt    400 pp.
5/23    9781250766588    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250766595    $11.99

Boulley returns to Sugar Island, Michigan, in 2014, ten years after the events of the multi-award-winning Firekeeper’s Daughter (rev. 5/21). This novel’s protagonist is Daunis’s sixteen-year-old niece, Perry Firekeeper-Birch. Perry reluctantly joins her more-driven twin sister, Pauline, on a summer internship at the tribal museum (laid-back Perry had wanted to spend the summer fishing). At the internship, Perry learns about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and also discovers that a local college has a large, uncataloged collection of human remains and artifacts that likely belong to her tribe, the Sugar Island Ojibwe. When a professor shows her the bones of a teen known as the Warrior Girl, Perry knows she must get them back to the tribe for a proper reburial, even if it involves illegal means. Boulley skillfully weaves in not only the issue of stolen Indigenous artifacts and remains but also that of missing Indigenous women, girls, and Two-Spirit people. Through Perry, readers learn how lack of federal resources and inadequate federal laws make it nearly impossible to investigate missing-persons cases on tribal land. Another powerful, vividly characterized, riveting page-turner from Boulley that will keep readers rooting for the resourceful Perry on her quest to return the Warrior Girl to her rightful resting place and for Perry’s personal growth as she finds her life’s passion and purpose. NICHOLL DENICE MONTGOMERY

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


Honor Books

Promise BoysPromise Boys
by Nick Brooks
High School    Holt    304 pp.
1/23    9781250866974    $19.99
e-book ed.  9781250866967    $10.99

Principal Kenneth Moore is dead, shot in his office during a basketball game. The influential Black founder of the all-male Urban Promise Prep School and a pillar of the community, he sought to give the boys at his school a shot at college — at the cost of a draconian code of conduct. Three students of color — a talented basketball player, a bright college hopeful, and a budding culinary star and entrepreneur — are instant suspects in the crime, each with a motive for their principal’s demise. Thrown together by their in-common circumstances, these three young men must become quick allies as they race to investigate the case and attempt to clear themselves of any wrongdoing. Will justice be served or will they fall victim to a flawed system? A riveting murder mystery wrapped in social commentary, the novel offers a fresh, contemporary take on an old-fashioned whodunit. It also shines a light on the plight of Black and Latino youth, who are often the targets of an inequitable and unequal justice system. Told from multiple perspectives with interspersed ephemera and extended flashbacks, the story builds to an exhilarating crescendo. MONIQUE HARRIS

From the January/February 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


When Clouds Touch UsWhen Clouds Touch Us
by Thanhhà Lại
Intermediate, Middle School    Harper/HarperCollins    256 pp.
5/23    9780063047006    $18.99
e-book ed.  9780063047020    $11.99

In this moving, empathetic follow-up to Lại’s National Book Award–winning and Newbery-honored verse novel Inside Out & Back Again (rev. 3/11), we follow another year of changes for Hà, now twelve, and her family, who are Vietnamese refugees. Lại’s vibrant first-person poems reflect her protagonist’s anxiety and confusion as she’s uprooted once again. Her mother moves the family from Alabama to Fort Worth, Texas, for a higher-paying factory job and the dream of purchasing a home. Adolescence looms, too: Hà gets her first period at school, and she’s mortified by conversations about boys and kissing. Yet she finds opportunities to grow and navigate her dual identities (what to “Absorb/Ignore”). She becomes more independent, starts a flower-selling business, and even questions the Vietnam War. The 1976 setting — America’s bicentennial — reinforces the idea that Hà and her family’s experiences are just as American as anyone’s. Strongly recommended for fans of the first book and readers interested in realistic, hardscrabble immigrant stories.

From the May/June 2023 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.


The 2023 Boston Globe–Horn Book Award winners and honors were announced on June 20th, 2023. For reviews of the other winning titles and more, click on the tag BGHB23.

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