Mattie has a few obsessions—jazz records, Star Trek, vintage dresses—but not even her best friend, Stella, knows about the one that propels her to the home of Miyu Miyake: her desire to learn how to pick locks and escape from straitjackets.
Escapology legend Akiko Miyake came from Japan, settling in Rhode Island before she died in a plane crash, leaving her tools and methods with her daughter. Miyu is a gruff 30-something who would much prefer to be secluded in her crumbling home than train the relentlessly persistent white teenager who turns up uninvited. Mattie keeps meeting the outrageous demands of her curmudgeonly mentor, including being pushed from her private comfort zone into public performance the summer before senior year. Will, a white basketball player with a secret, finds himself pulled into Mattie’s orbit. A seemingly mismatched friendship develops between the two, and within their growing trust, they find the space to express their genuine selves. Stella, who is white, returns from a prestigious academic summer program to discover, and fully embrace, this radically bold version of Mattie. She ushers 14-year-old Azorean-American boy genius Frankie Campos into the mix, and the four become an inseparable crew, offering each other the space they need to be their overachieving, weird, or queer true selves.
An exciting and nuanced portrayal of the terror of vulnerability and the exalted freedom of authenticity. (Fiction. 14-17)