The Well by Jake Wyatt and Choo
First Second / Macmillan Publishers
Publication Date: May 24, 2022
Li-Zhen (Lizzy) lives a simple life: helping her grandfather raise goats, flirting with the woman who runs the ferry, and selling cheese and milk at the market. But she finds her life upended when she steals coins from a magical wish-granting well in order to cover a debt. Now Lizzy must find a way to pay the well back—but it won’t be satisfied with just coins. Instead, it needs wishes. Lizzy will have to find a way to grant the wishes she stole and break the curse, lest she be dragged down into the deep.
Jake Wyatt’s story and Choo’s illustrations complement each other beautifully to tell the story of a girl who must battle both a cursed well and an island beset by creepy fog filled with monsters. Choo’s use of color and tone are masterful: the vibrant colors of the climactic battle are in stark contrast to the muted tones of the earlier chapters of the book—and to the bright, cheerful colors that characterize the end of the book. Wyatt slowly reveals the tragic backstory of Lizzy’s family when it becomes relevant to the story, adding to the emotional punch. Lizzy’s relationship with her grandfather is so tender and poignant, and her burgeoning relationship with Eli feels like falling in love for the first time. The queer representation is matter of fact and on the page.
Teens who enjoy Grace Lin, Studio Ghibli films like Howl’s Moving Castle, Mamo by Sas Milledge, mythology-inspired tales, and playing tabletop role-playing games such as Dungeons and Dragons will find a lot to love with this title.
Other Nominated Titles:
- Children of the Atom, vol. 1 by Vita Ayala, Bernard Chang and Paco Medina (October 26, 2021)
- My Mom Had an Abortion: A Shout Your Abortion Project by Beezus B. Murphy and Tatiana Gill (December 28, 2021)
- The Croaking, vol. 1 by Megan Grey (January 11, 2022)
- Robo Sapiens: Tales of Tomorrow Omnibus by Toranosuke Shimada (December 7, 2021)
- Superman Son of Kal-El, vol. 1: The Truth by Tom Taylor and John Timms (May 31, 2022)
- Clementine, Book 1 by Tillie Walden (June 28, 2022)
The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.
Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.