SALEM BROWNSTONE

ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWERS

Part mystery, part horror, this sly, psuedo-Victorian graphic novel is heavy on style but light on plot. Mundane Laundromat owner Salem Brownstone receives a telegram announcing the death of his estranged father, Jedediah, and a taxi brings him to his father’s home, an eerie, Gothic mansion with a circus encampment nearby. Upstairs, Salem encounters circus performer Cassandra Contortionist, who implores him to protect Jed’s “scrying ball,” an artifact preventing evil spirits of the Midnight City from entering our world. The rest of the book is a tour through Singh’s realization of the lush and grotesque scenery of the mansion, the circus and the Midnight City itself, as the opposing forces battle for the scrying ball. Occasional visual jokes, like Cassandra’s series of plot-related T-shirts and a label on the mansion’s doorbell reading “Antiquated Doorbell Mechanism,” bring an undercurrent of irony to the story’s moody atmosphere. Readers who, like Salem, “love the rum and unusual, the uncanny, the macabre” will find much to appreciate in the artwork; those looking for a plot of similar depth will be disappointed. (Graphic novel. 14 & up)

Pub Date: July 13, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-7636-4735-3

Page Count: 96

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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Heart-pounding.

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CEMETERY BOYS

A gay, transgender brujo with burgeoning powers seeks answers about his cousin’s death.

Sixteen-year-old Yadriel also wishes for acknowledgement from his community but unexpectedly finds himself entangled in the unresolved wishes of a strong-willed, good-looking spirit. He descends from a long line of brujx who have been granted magic power by Lady Death to heal the living and to guide spirits into the afterlife. Although he’s grown up surrounded by a close-knit community, Yadriel feels alone, excluded indefinitely from a sacred rite of passage because he is transgender. When he senses that his cousin Miguel has died suddenly but the family can’t locate him, Yadriel sees an opportunity to prove to everyone he’s a true brujo by solving the mystery and releasing his cousin’s lost spirit. His plan quickly falls apart, as he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, a boy with unfinished business who died the same day as Miguel. Both the romance and mystery burn slow and hot until the climax. Stakes begin high, and the intensity only increases with a looming deadline and a constant risk that Julian might lose himself, turning maligno. The cast of characters represents a diversity of Latinx identities sharing a community in East Los Angeles. Julian is Colombian while Yadriel is Cuban and Mexican. Their romance provides joyful, ground-breaking representation for gay, transgender boys.

Heart-pounding. (Fantasy. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25046-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Swoon Reads/Macmillan

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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A meditation and adventure quest offering solace to anyone bearing an unfair burden.

EACH OF US A DESERT

What does it mean to come into your own power by letting go of it?

The villagers of Empalme devoutly pray to Solís, the feared higher power who unleashed La Quema, or fire, on humanity for its ills of greed, war, and jealousy. As the village cuentista, Xochitl listens to and receives the villagers’ stories into her body, clearing their consciences, preventing the manifestation of their nightmares, and releasing them to Solís in the desert. Having diligently played this role since childhood, she is now a deeply lonesome 16-year-old whose only comfort comes from cherished poems. Worn weary by her role, she leaves on an odyssey in search of another way to exist. In their sophomore novel, Oshiro deftly weaves an intricate, allegorical, and often gory tale within a post-apocalyptic desert setting that readers will feel so viscerally they may very well need to reach for a glass of water. It is a world parallel to ours, rife with Biblical references and the horrific traps that Latinx immigrants face while seeking better lives. Xochitl’s first-person, questioning narration—interlaced with terrifying cuentos that she receives on her journey—is the strongest voice, although secondary and tertiary characters, both human and mythical, are given a tenderness and humanity. All main characters are Latinx, and queer relationships are integrated with refreshing normality.

A meditation and adventure quest offering solace to anyone bearing an unfair burden. (Fantasy/horror. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-16921-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Tor Teen

Review Posted Online: June 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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