Knopf. Feb. 2022. 272p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9780593309032.
Gr 8 Up–In this companion to Pet, Emezi once again deftly conjures an ethereal world in which hope is a practice, teen voice and choice are uplifted, and art is validated and lauded as a form of resistance. Before the angels banished the monsters from the city of Lucille, before Pet, before Jam, there was Bitter. Yet this book imagines so much more than the backstories of Bitter (Jam’s mother and Pet’s creator) and Aloe (Jam’s father). This prequel tells the complicated yet sweet story of their fledgling love while intimately dissecting the anatomy of a revolution. After a childhood of bouncing from one foster situation to another, Bitter finally feels safe ensconced within the walls of Eucalyptus, a school for orphaned teen artists. The world outside may be overrun with monsters, rife with inequality, and bubbling over with senseless violence, but she just can’t bring herself to leave the safety of her art making to join the protests to save their Lucille. But when her life slowly becomes intertwined with Aloe’s and he forces her to make amends with Eddie, one of the Assata (revolutionary) kids, Bitter must consider her role in confronting the realities of their world. Bitter asks the universal question, “Everyone got their own role. What is my place?”
VERDICT Readers of Pet will relish this dive back into the origins of Bitter’s creative power and come to deeply understand the price paid to ease the injustices of the past. Yet this book more than stands on its own, and will likely resonate with an even broader audience than its companion.

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