Little, Brown. Aug. 2023. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316414234.
Gr 4-7–Ten years ago, when Avalyn’s asthma almost ended her life, her parents decided to move to a crisp, clean air town in Arizona. Having fresh air to breathe daily is a gift for Avalyn, and though bullies at school won’t let her forget her asthma, Avalyn has learned to focus on her friends and her love of spelling. Everything changes with the arrival of Adam and the dust storms. Who is Adam and why is the town experiencing unprecedented weather? Avalyn intends to find out. Bowling uses a deceivingly simple plot to broach an important conversation with readers about safety and bodily autonomy. Avalyn and Adam are both dealing with daily attacks; for Avalyn, it’s school bullies and asthma; for Adam, it’s something much darker happening at home. Their emotional responses to their situations are revealed with touches of magical realism, which aids the reader in understanding their struggles. The overarching theme of speaking up is tied neatly into Avalyn’s battle with breathing. Breath is precious and powerful: what a person chooses to do with it can change a life. An endnote expands on bullying and abuse while encouraging youth to speak out if something happens. Avalyn and Adam both read white. Possible trigger warnings for bullying and sexual abuse.
VERDICT A valuable addition to middle grade collections that will serve as a conversation starter for crucial, sometimes challenging, topics.

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