Review of Mid-Air

Mid-Air Mid-Air
by Alicia D. Williams; illus. by Danica Novgorodoff
Middle School    Dlouhy/Atheneum    320 pp.
4/24    9781481465830    $17.99
e-book ed.  9781481465854    $10.99

“Be like water,” Isaiah says. “Always,” Darius replies. These are the final words the boys say to each other before Darius takes off on his bicycle to break the Guinness world record for a wheelie. Isaiah is in charge of watching for cars, but a chaotic, unexpected confrontation ends with a tragic fatal accident. Isaiah and his other best friend, Drew, each deal with grief and guilt in their own way: Isaiah wants to open up about his pain, while Drew withdraws. Written in verse, this resonant coming-of-age novel flows with accessible language that quickly draws readers into the story; emotionally moving grayscale illustrations are interspersed. After Isaiah is violently attacked, he begins to shut down, and his mother sends him to visit relatives in North Carolina. There, Isaiah begins a journey of self-acceptance and unpacking of the emotional weight he has been carrying. Williams (Genesis Begins Again, rev. 1/19) handles the sensitive topics of death, grief, racism, violence, and racial and gender expression with care, making sure the narrative doesn’t become overly dark and heavy. The novel’s focus on Isaiah’s inner world allows readers to witness the evolution of a thirteen-year-old Black boy dealing with life-altering events, navigating challenging relationships with friends and family, and, finally, feeling comfortable enough to reveal his full self in the process.

From the May/June 2024 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Monique Harris

Monique Harris is a public educator, reading specialist and independent educational consultant. She holds a Master of Science degree in Education from Simmons University, and is enrolled in a PhD program at Florida State University.

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