In the wake of his brother’s death, a black boy struggles with grief and coming out.
When Kingston’s white friend Sandy came out to him a few months ago, Kingston’s older brother, Khalid, told him to stay away from Sandy because King wouldn’t want people to think he was gay too. And then Khalid died. Their mom wants him to see someone, but King refuses because he knows he has nothing to say except that he is sad. Although his dad says boys don’t cry, King can’t stop the tears from coming every time he thinks of Khalid. But King knows that his brother is not really gone: Khalid “shed his skin like a snake” and is now a dragonfly. Complicating King’s grief over the sudden loss of his brother is the fear that Khalid would not still love him if he knew the truth—King is gay. Every day after school King walks to the bayou searching for Khalid, wondering if he can ever share who he is. When Sandy goes missing, King must come to terms with the true cost of shame. The tale is set in Louisiana, and Callender’s vivid descriptions of the rural area King calls home are magical; readers will feel the heat and the sweat, see the trees and the moss. This quiet novel movingly addresses toxic masculinity, homophobia in the black community—especially related to men—fear, and memory.
Elegiac and hopeful. (Fiction. 8-12)