A mix of the mundane and the magical permeates this slender portrait of a girl in pain.
After a childhood bouncing between her mother, possibly a witch and probably unstable, and her father, whose presence made it possible for Lacy to see magic and beauty everywhere, Lacy’s mother, Cheyenne, disappeared. Her mother’s influence gone, Lacy’s darkness blossomed into light and kindness. But her father has died, and although stepmother Anna wants to keep her, Cheyenne returns to drag Lacy back to Sacramento. Lacy narrates in lush, almost magical prose: “Smoke billows out and bits of glowing ember consume the creases of the paper like growing things, red mushrooms in a sped-up video.” This lyricism exists side by side with gritty realism: slut-shaming and mean girls, childhood abuse suffered by classmate Martin, and the nonstop emotional and physical neglect and abuse Lacy endures from her own mother. Sometimes horrifying and sometimes charming, this is a powerful if uneven novel. Lacy sees herself as a battleground between light and dark, and she must find her own way even as she deals with levels of grief and pain she’s almost unable to face; readers may be left uncomfortable when that way seems to forgive her mother, but they will rejoice in the confirmation that we are what we make ourselves, regardless of the darkness that surrounds.
Unexpected, uncanny, unforgettable. (Magical realism. 14 & up)