Flawless Girls

Feiwel & Friends. May 2024. 288p. Tr $20.99. ISBN 9781250869630.
Gr 9 Up–McLemore delivers an evocative but not-quite-flawless YA novel. Isla and Renata Soler are brazen, carefree sisters being raised by their strong-willed grandmother. She hopes to introduce her granddaughters to society, hoping they can make long-lasting connections despite their brown skin and nouveau riche status. The young women are sent to Alarie House, a prestigious finishing school that has produced princesses and first ladies. However, Isla runs away the first night after a disturbing experience, and Renata comes back changed—a shadow of her former self and filled with rage. When Renata disappears, Isla returns to the menacing house to uncover the horrible secrets that led to her older sister’s eerie transformation. The novel’s setting is never clear but the text hints at a late 19th- or early 20th-century time period. A Gothic feel permeates the narrative, and McLemore’s entrancing writing is on full display here. However, some readers may get lost in the lyrical language and extended metaphors. This tale is a mix of horror and magical realism and doesn’t always find its footing. But its discussion of beauty, gender, class, and race will draw in readers. Plus, the depiction of an intersex protagonist is complex and nuanced. Patient readers will be rewarded with a profound and unresolved conclusion that offers a fascinating look at the definition of girlhood. The sisters are Latinx.
VERDICT Give this to fans of books by McLemore and Nova Ren Suma.

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