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Layoverland by Gabby Noone
Razorbill / Penguin Random House
Publication Date: January 21, 2020
Beatrice (Bea) Fox is dead. Stuck in purgatory (which looks a lot like a mediocre airport), Bea has been assigned to work in the Memory Experience Department, helping other souls move on to heaven. Her job gets complicated, however, when she’s assigned to assist Caleb, the cute teenage boy who caused her death.
This is a fast-paced dark comedy that opens with Bea’s death and her confusing arrival in purgatory. Bea is a brash seventeen-year old, sarcastic and often judgmental, who’s built an emotional fortress around her heart. As she works with Caleb to uncover the memory that’s keeping him from heaven, she begins to understand how her own actions and feelings of resentment have hurt others, especially her sister (and best friend), Emmy. Flashbacks offer brief glimpses of the challenges faced by Bea and Caleb during their lifetimes, including bullying, racism, step-families, and arguments over women’s reproductive rights. The airport serves as an amusing and relatable metaphor for purgatory as an in-between space filled with annoyances like bad food and uncomfortable furniture.
This is a great selection for fans of the tv show The Good Place, as well as books about death and second chances like Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds and The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand. Readers who enjoy dark comedies by Derek Milman, Maggie Thrash, and Andrew Smith will appreciate this book’s irreverent tone.
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Make Me a World/ Random House Children’s Books
Publication Date: September 10, 2019
Everyone knows the monsters are all gone – or are they? When Pet, a creature painted by Jam’s mother, comes to life and recruits Jam to hunt and destroy a monster, Jam does not want to believe Pet, especially when Pet says the monster is threatening Jam’s friend.
The suspense ratchets up quickly in this genre-bending, fast paced, engaging story. Jam lives in the near future in an inclusive community where evil supposedly no longer exists. The kind of community where a trans girl communicates by signing or using her voice (depending on her mood) and is free to focus on important projects, like capturing a dangerous monster with the single-minded and sarcastic Pet.
Fantasy, suspense, adventure and allegory meld together in this 203 page novel. Some readers will enjoy the plot-driven adventure story, while other readers will tune in to the themes and reflections on current events. Pet is also available in an audio version narrated by Christopher Myers.
Recommend Pet to teens who like suspenseful with paranormal elements, such as the television series, Stranger Things, the movies of Jordan Peele, or books like A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline.