by Ciera Burch
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Pub Date 02 Apr 2024 | Archive Date 02 Apr 2024
Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Magical realism meets Southern Gothic in this commanding young adult debut from Ciera Burch about true love, the meaning of home, and the choices that haunt us.
Welcome to Coldwater. Come for the ghosts, stay for the drama.
Jericka Walker had planned to spend the summer before senior year soaking up the sun with her best friend on the Jersey Shore. Instead she finds herself in Coldwater, Maryland, a small town with a dark and complicated past where her estranged grandmother lives—someone she knows only two things about: her name and the fact that she left Jericka’s mother and uncle when they were children. But now Jericka's grandmother is dying, and her mother has dragged Jericka along to say goodbye.
As Jericka attempts to form a connection with a woman she's never known, and adjusts to life in a town where everything closes before dinner, she meets “ghost girl” Kat, a girl eager to leave Coldwater and more exciting than a person has any right to be. But Coldwater has a few unsettling secrets of its own. The more you try to leave, the stronger the town’s hold. As Jericka feels the chilling pull of her family’s past, she begins to question everything she thought she knew about her mother, her childhood, and the lines between the living and the dead.
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Average rating from 25 members
I think this is the best book I've read, and quite possibly will read, all year. I (mistakenly) thought this was going to be another "teen grudgingly reconnects with their small town familial roots over the summer, and also there's spooky stuff" novel, and while there *are* ghosts, and main character Jericka certainly *is* initially begrudging of her summer away from friends in a tiny Maryland town, this book is so, SO much more. Set in a town founded by formerly enslaved people, with a supernatural element rooted in the trauma of white supremacy and racist violence, this YA novel centers Black history and contemporary Black experiences in ways that (to me, at least) totally up-end the still-persistent publishing notion that white feelings, or white experiences, need to be anywhere at all in the story. Ciera Burch's writing is absolutely breathtaking and immersive, and the way the novel deals with forgiveness, family, belonging, betrayal, trauma, and growing up is so deep and nuanced. It takes a lot of plot beats that could be tedious, or at least stereotypical, and makes them something transcendent but still utterly quiet. And all of this is not the mention the budding sapphic relationship at the center. Just...this is a staggeringly good novel. Read it.