Murray Out of Water

HarperCollins/Quill Tree. May 2024. 400p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063326811.
Gr 5 Up–When a hurricane forces Murray and her strict family to leave the Jersey Shore, she finally gets a chance to explore her authentic, gender nonconforming self as she is surrounded by the supportive relatives they have sought refuge with. A new environment allows her to make new friends who introduce her to rollerskating, and offers the opportunity to express herself through drag. Though welcoming, Murray longs for the ocean, which she believes gives her a sense of power. Hints of magic dot this otherwise realistic story of identity, belonging, and found family. This novel in verse is mainly free verse, with a few concrete poems sprinkled in. Tracy has crafted fully fleshed-out secondary characters that help Murray’s world come to life for readers—from Murray’s villainous mother who cast out her oldest child for being gay, to her nonbinary cousin, Blake, in whom she has found a confidant and defender, and her new best friend, Dylan, who has magical qualities of his own. An author’s note includes information about her being inspired by Hurricane Sandy and “the restorative joy of relationships.”
VERDICT Beautiful in its simplicity yet swirling with emotion, this book deserves a place in all libraries serving upper elementary and middle school readers. Hand to fans of Starfish by Lisa Fipps and Wave by Diana Farid.

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