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BLACKWATER by Jeannette Arroyo


by Jeannette Arroyo & Ren Graham ; illustrated by Jeannette Arroyo & Ren Graham

Pub Date: July 19th, 2022
ISBN: 978-1-250-30402-5
Publisher: Henry Holt

Blackwater, Maine, isn’t an ordinary town, but Eli Hirsch and Tony Price are mostly ordinary boys.

Eli, a trans Jewish boy, is isolated by an autoimmune disease, an overbearing mother, and a standoffish attitude. Popular track star Tony, who is cued as Puerto Rican, fights with his distant father and is watching his childhood best friend turn into a bully. But mysterious things are afoot: Tony is bitten by a werewolf, and Eli is being followed by a ghost. Trying to unravel the werewolf curse, Tony, Eli, and Marcia, Tony’s levelheaded goth friend who reads as Black, investigate, coming across intriguing complications and haunting dangers. The horror elements are playful, spooky, but not too frightening, providing a backdrop that adds to the developing relationship between the boys. Despite some animosity, they accept one another exactly as they are, with no pretenses, as their friendship turns into a mutual crush. There’s a kind earnestness to their connection, particularly Tony’s easygoing support toward Eli’s chronic illness. An exciting element lies in the artwork: The creators illustrate alternate chapters, with Arroyo’s vivid and dynamic lines and more cartoonish style serving action scenes well and Graham’s precise approach highlighting more heartfelt, character-driven moments. The styles blend together seamlessly to make a stronger whole. However, the story, while breezy and enjoyable, feels incomplete, missing details that would make characters and their emotional arcs more complex.

A romantic romp through the supernatural.

(Graphic horror. 14-18)