The Atlas of Us

HarperTeen/HarperCollins/. Jan. 2024. 336p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780063088580.
Gr 10 Up–Atlas wants to forget that her father died last year when she was a junior in high school—before she dropped out, before she lost her job at the flower shop, and before her mother stopped being invincible. Atlas pretends—or lies, as she admits to herself—that she’s okay. Secretly, however, she’s kept her father’s list of last wishes, because one was to hike the Western Sierra mountain range with her. She was just a kid when he taught her to love these mountains. Now, more than a year after his passing, she’s accepted into a rigorous peer-led summer conservation program in this exact location. She’s dropped off by her mother, sulky and silent. But her commitment to return without her Dad makes plain that she’s determined to move forward, even if she can’t see it. One who does is King, a trail leader who buries his attraction to Atlas for his own reasons. Telling the truth becomes a prerequisite for romance as they edge towards the chasm of deep feelings that each wants to excavate. Lasting friendships formed on the trail also rescue Atlas from this confusing time of anger and denial. Of her peers she observes, “They make loving seem easy.” It isn’t; neither is getting over loss and grief. Dwyer’s open approach to both ends of this emotional spectrum invites mature readers into the discussion. Most characters cue white; a secondary character is gay.
VERDICT This romance, with gentle but explicit sex scenes, deals realistically with teens’ denial after the loss of a loved one. Recommended for mature YA audiences of all collections.

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