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Books in Brief: Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry; Goodnight, Veggies; Wonder Woman, Warbringer, the graphic novel

YOUNG ADULT

Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry; Algonquin Young Readers, 279 pages ($17.95) Ages 14 and up.

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This fierce, unforgettable whirlwind of a novel, a wondrous mix of ghost story and drama of sisterly rebellion, holds the reader in thrall from the first sentence to the final page.

We first meet the four Torres sisters climbing out a second-story window, running away from home, hoping to blend in with the crowds during Fiesta celebrations in San Antonio. Their escape is thwarted by their needy, toxic, widowed father; two months later, eldest sister Ana dies in a fall from that same window. The book alternates between narration by an unnamed boy who lives across the street from the Torres sisters and third-person narration from each sister's point of view.

The first anniversary of Ana's death finds her sisters struggling alone to deal with their grief. 18-year-old Jessica is working at a pharmacy and has taken up with Ana's abusive boyfriend. 16-year-old Iridian has left school and become a recluse, submerging herself in Ana's romance novels and filling notebooks with attempts to write her own. The youngest, Rosa, goes to Mass every Sunday and tries to communicate with animals, walking about at night looking for a hyena escaped from the zoo and rumored to be stalking the neighborhood. Then Ana starts to haunt the house, knocking over a glass of ice water, appearing as a hand on the shower curtain, writing on the wall, laughing. Mabry paints an indelible portrait of manipulative Rafe Torres, an auto worker with a drinking problem who wallows in his misery (turned, as Jessica muses, "from a man into a puddle") and never delivers on his promises, never comes to his daughters' defense, even at one point telling Iridian "you're nothing." Jessica's boyfriend John is a similarly destructive presence. The tension builds toward an explosive conclusion as the three sisters find strength in joining forces.

In publisher's notes, author Samantha Mabry says the title is a phrase from "King Lear," "used as an insult, hurled by Albany at Lear's selfish and disobedient daughters. ... how could I write a story in which this wasn't an an insult, but, in a way, praise?" Her 2017 novel "All the Wind in the World" was nominated for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature.

 

PICTURE BOOK

Goodnight, Veggies by Diana Murray, illustrated by Zachariah OHora; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 32 pages ($17.99) Ages 4 to 7.

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This charming, funny bedtime story, set in a community garden, may lull the little ones to sleep while planting in their heads a more positive attitude to vegetables. OHora's colorful acrylic paintings of cute vegetables are perfectly paired with Diana Murray's clever poetry.  "Cuddly cauliflowers. Droopy pods of peas. Rhubarbs reading stories to worn-out broccolis...Baby eggplants dreaming .... of places far and near .... Celery is snoring as sunset disappears. Cranky corn rolls over and covers up its ears." The message may particularly resonate with little ones: "For nothing's more exhausting than growing day and night."

GRAPHIC NOVEL

Wonder Woman, Warbringer adapted by Louise Simonson from the novel by Leigh Bardugo, illustrated by Kit Seaton; DC Graphic Novels for Young Adults $16.99)

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This fabulous graphic novel is adapted from the 2017 "Wonder Woman" origin story by acclaimed writer Leigh Bardugo, the first of the fine series of superhero novels commissioned by DC Comics of top Young Adult authors. Diana, unlike the other Amazon warriors of Themyscira who have been rewarded with life after death, was fashioned from clay and feels the need to prove herself. As the story begins she is training to compete in a difficult race, but she sacrifices her chance to win by rescuing a mortal, 17-year-old New Yorker Alia Keralis, from drowning after a shipboard explosion off the coast. (Alia believes Diana must be a member of some kind of cult; at one point she muses Diana is "built like a supermodel who moonlights as a cage fighter.") Alia is the nerdy, orphaned heiress of Keralis Labs. Her father was Greek, her mother a black woman from New Orleans. Diana goes into exile trying to avert global catastrophe and finds herself in New York, which offers comic gold. (On the subway, a man calls her "baby" and she responds "I'm fully grown, which should be obvious.") The action-packed, explosive finale features Alia's brother and friends Theo and Nim, an overweight, queer fashionista. While the high-stakes plot is compelling, it's the relationship between Alia and Diana that carries the story.

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