Debut author Schrieve stuns with this tale set in a 1997 Salem, Ore., where the authorities control magic and the monsters are emphatically not the LGBTQ zombie and werewolf protagonists. Z, 14, had just begun to acknowledge their genderqueer identity when their entire family is killed in a car accident. Now a zombie without a custodian, Z faces slow degeneration and—until a widowed lesbian bookstore owner offers guardianship—the prospect of incineration. Z’s bullied classmate, Turkish Muslim Aysel Tahir, hasn’t come out as gay and lives secretly as an unregistered werewolf. Anti-monster sentiments across Salem reaches a fever pitch as a mysterious murder is pinned on werewolves; both students, fearing for their safety, must rely on trusted teacher and sorcerer Mr. Weber, a group of conflicted young adult werewolves, and fellow student Tommy, who has secrets of his own. Shrieve conjures intricate magic vital to the plot, pushes the book’s leads to grow amid the book’s ratcheting tension, and provides incisive social commentary via monster-tale tropes. Any reader who has felt it necessary to hide their true identity will find strong characters to connect with in this fun, powerful story. Ages 12–up. (Mar.)
"Schrieve depicts diversity among the queer and trans characters, highlighting how economic and racial privilege make the concerns of middle-aged, rich, white trans women different from those of a young, trans woman of color without access to medical care. Tension burns hot until the explosive conclusion, which begs for a sequel. On fire with magic and revolution." —Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"Shrieve conjures intricate magic vital to the plot, pushes the book’s leads to grow amid the book’s ratcheting tension, and provides incisive social commentary via monster-tale tropes. Any reader who has felt it necessary to hide their true identity will find strong characters to connect with in this fun, powerful story." —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Out of Salem is the best urban fantasy I've ever read. Hal Schrieve refurbishes old school world-building sensibilities into a note-perfect dysphoria metaphor that feels fresh and classic at the same time. Simultaneously nostalgic and forward looking, this book should set a new standard in the genre. Terrifying, beautiful, exhilarating." —April Daniels, author of The Nemesis trilogy
"Schrieve's queer vision of a monster-infested '90s is rich in metaphor and rife with meaning." —Kyle Lukoff, librarian and author of When Aidan Became A Brother
"Out of Salem is the genderqueer, undead, anarchist Harry Potter replacement we have all been waiting for. Queer teen readers will fall in love with this gang of misfit magical monsters; not so much chosen ones as outcasts, and if you know a queer teen you should definitely buy it for them. However, in its political acuity, its sadness and, ultimately, its hope, Schrieve’s book is much more than just a good YA read. It is also, in the best possible sense, an educational experience." —Cat Fitzpatrick, editor of Meanwhile Elsewhere: Science Fiction & Fantasy from Transgender Writers
"I was consistently balancing between amused at the bluntness and impressed at the deftness when it came to the use of metaphor in the story ... Even while all of society is insisting that the protagonists must be like them or die, even while most of the characters don’t see any way out but to run, the narrative suggests quietly that there’s another option ... That building a community can build safety; that refusing to back down can protect someone else; that maybe you can transform the world into something new, something that has room for you in it, if only you are brave. [A] very rare-for-me five out of five stars.” —Genevra Littlejohn, Lesbrary
Gr 9 Up—After the car accident that killed their family, genderqueer 14-year-old Z Chilworth is left a zombie. Becoming undead in the city of Salem, OR, in the 1990s pushes Z into a world of monsters, magic, and prejudice that they had not given much thought to before, despite being a talented witch before their death and rebirth. Among openly hostile classmates and teachers, unreliable guardians, and an abusive police force with deep hatred for monsters, Z wonders how they will spend what is left of their unnaturally extended life, which, by all accounts, won't last much more than a year. But when they become friends with Aysel, an unregistered werewolf, and Tommy, an unregistered shape-shifter, Z starts to feel like there might be people worth fighting for—and standing with—after all. In this urban fantasy debut, Schrieve layers magical prejudices and very real hatred to make a powerful statement about sexuality, identity, and discrimination. With gritty humor and an extensive cast of characters, this story weaves together multiple threads to craft a rich, complicated near-past where being different might be a death sentence. Despite the grittiness of Schrieve's world, the message of the novel is still one of hope: at its core, the story is "about loving someone, and seeing them as part of your family." And, as one character tells Z, "some people have the capacity to see different people as part of their family and some don't." VERDICT Purchase where urban fantasy is in high demand.—Jen McConnel, Queen's University, Ont.
A genderqueer zombie and a lesbian werewolf resist a corrupt government that wants to incinerate them in this debut novel by Schrieve.
Any day now, Z, a white, 14-year-old zombie, might fall apart without the intervention of illegal necromancy to hold them together. Their whole family died in a car crash that should have killed them too. In their anti-monster small town of Salem, Oregon, Z's only allies are their caretaker, Mrs. Dunnigan, an aging, brown-skinned lesbian whose health is failing, and Aysel Tahir, a fat, Turkish-American lesbian who faces life-threatening danger if anyone discovers she's an unregistered werewolf. When a murder and accusations of werewolf terrorism shine a national spotlight on their town, Z and Aysel stand together to survive. Set in 1997, this darkly humored fantasy explores censorship, government surveillance, homelessness, and real-world (not just magical) forms of oppression. Chapters alternate between Aysel's and Z's points of view, winding their individual conflicts together. While classmates bully Aysel for her fatness, she owns her size and it makes her powerful. Schrieve depicts diversity among the queer and trans characters, highlighting how economic and racial privilege make the concerns of middle-aged, rich, white trans women different from those of a young, trans woman of color without access to medical care. Tension burns hot until the explosive conclusion, which begs for a sequel.
On fire with magic and revolution. (Fantasy. 14-adult)