Hazel Bly and the Deep Blue Sea

Little, Brown. May 2021. 352p. Tr $16.99. ISBN 9780316535458.
Gr 4-8–Twelve-year-old Hazel lost her mum in a tragic accident two years ago, and it feels like she’s been losing parts of herself ever since. Now Hazel, her younger sister Peach, and her other mother, Mama, have left their family home and are bouncing around from town to town trying to outrun their grief. This summer they’ve settled into Rose Harbor, ME, a coastal town famous for its mythical mermaid. Hazel is introduced to the tale of the Rose Maid by her new neighbor Lemon. Lemon and her friends draft Hazel into their “MerSquad” despite her skepticism, slowly breaking down her walls. One friend, Jules, is nonbinary, and their fledgling romantic connection with Hazel is a sweet promise of hope that never seemed possible before. By opening up to others and leaning into the magic of something larger than herself, Hazel forges a new path forward. The rich character development and deft writing allow readers to empathize with Hazel. Hazel, her family, and most other characters are cued white; one secondary character is of Japanese descent.
VERDICT Blake continues to expand her catalogue of positive, nuanced LGBTQ+ representation in middle grade novels. An honest and moving exploration of loss that highlights the healing power of reclaiming oneself and allowing hope to thrive.

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