FICTION

The City Beautiful

Inkyard. Sept. 2021. 480p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781335402509.
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Gr 9 Up–It’s 1893 in Chicago during the World’s Fair and Jewish Romanian immigrant Alter Rosen, born sick and named to confuse the Angel of Death, finds himself in the middle of a murder mystery. Jewish boys all around the city have gone missing and been found murdered. Yakov, his close friend and roommate, is the most recent to be found dead. Strange things begin happening to Alter and he discovers that he’s possessed by Yakov’s dybbuk—a spirit that occupies a person’s soul until they accomplish a goal. In this case, the goal is tracking down Yakov’s killer, and Alter must do so before the dybbuk takes over entirely. Frankie, an alluring and dangerous boy from Alter’s first arrival in Chicago reappears in his life. The two begin to hunt for the killer before they’re targeted next and the dybbuk fully takes over. Polydoros doesn’t hold back with this heavy, dark, and gritty story that explores the immigrant experience in a unique way. While firmly a historical fiction title, this genre-bending novel is also equal parts thriller and fantasy. Featuring a queer protagonist, it is deeply layered with Jewish myth, immigration, racism, and anti-Semitism. While scenes of violence, drowning, and slaughterhouses are incredibly vivid, some readers may find the descriptions too intense. Yiddish is woven throughout the dialogue and while context helps, a glossary would be beneficial.
VERDICT A wild ride of a queer gothic fantasy that’s a must-have for YA fantasy collections.

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