Zinnia’s convinced nothing could be worse than her beloved older brother’s sudden, unexplained departure, which leaves her alone with their overbearing dentist mother—till a colony of honeybees takes up residence in her hair.
Zinnia responds by wearing a hoodie at all times and staying in her room to knit whenever possible. On a rare outing she meets unflappable Birch, the neighbor’s visiting nephew, who is the only person to notice Zinnia’s bees. Together they search for Adam and try to figure out how to divest Zinnia’s hair of her unwanted tenants. Davis’ debut demands that readers check their disbelief at the door. In addition to the bees, she draws secondary characters with broad brushes, especially do-gooder Dr. Flossdrop, who seems determined to alienate her entire family. But she manages to keep it together, embedding readers in Zinnia’s believable, often funny perspective with occasional cutaways to the bees, who narrate their side of the misadventure in a wry collective voice that combines snippets of bee biology with fancy (they break dance to “combat despair”). Bee cognoscenti will scoff at the sheer ridiculousness of the premise, but its extreme silliness works its own magic to mitigate this and other hard-to-believe moments, such as the ease with which the rift between Zinnia and her former BFFs seems to be healed. Zinnia, her family, and Birch are evidently white. Horton’s illustrations not seen.
Not flawless but decidedly offbeat and emotionally true. (Fabulism. 9-12)