Rust in the Root

HarperCollins/Balzer + Bray. Sept. 2022. 448p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780063038226.
Gr 8 Up–Laura Ann Langstan is a queer Black girl growing up in an alternate 1930s America. In this world, the mystical arts can be practiced, but only with a license, and Laura seeks hers by joining the Bureau of the Arcane’s Conservation Corps in New York as an apprentice to a mysterious woman named Skylark. As the two go on a mission into the oldest Blight in America to fix the corruption to the area, they discover there is more to Laura than anyone, including Laura herself, previously thought. Ireland seamlessly weaves historical events with the mystical world she created, making the fantasy of this book feel very real and fleshed out. This work puts a much-needed perspective into YA historical fiction and does not hold back when examining America’s dark past of racism and exploitation. The cast of characters is almost entirely Black and has LGBTQIA+ representation in Laura as well as Malik, a boy in the Conservation Corps. This book is exciting, with a litany of in-depth characters that readers will love.
VERDICT This novel tackles important social issues while providing an exciting and fast-paced adventure that’s hard to put down. Highly recommended for any YA collection.

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