The Cartographers

HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Jan. 2023. 288p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062383075.
Gr 10 Up–Mental health, fragile relationships, and life struggles in NYC all come together in this atmospheric novel. Ocean is taking a gap year before attending college with a scholarship. Problem is, she hasn’t come clean about it to her immigrant single mom. Ocean has been thinking about suicide since before she left her small town for the big city, and the day she meets mysterious Constantine, she realizes just how little she knows about life. The two enter a strange flirting friendship that ultimately backfires, and as Ocean struggles financially, emotionally, and mentally, things spiral out of her control. Even her two roommates seem to have their act together when they start dating and are working on finding their own paths. Life keeps getting harder as Ocean finds out Constantine is in a relationship, and her love is unrequited; she can’t seem to find a way out of her situation. When she ends up in jail for a misdemeanor, Ocean will have to face the fact that she’s losing control of her own life. This broody story portrays suicidal ideation throughout the plot, which can be hard to read and needs to be disclosed with a huge trigger warning. Constantine is an irredeemable character who toys around with Ocean, and ultimately hurts her. The unraveling of the main character’s mental health is difficult to endure, and there’s little in terms of a satisfying ending. Overall, this novel is an exploration of friendships, relationships, and life after high school.
VERDICT The suicidal ideation Ocean experiences needs to be handled with care. Only give this book to readers who have been forewarned.

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