Sonora by Hannah Lillith Assadi [in Library Journal]
Debut novelist Hannah Lillith Assadi’s protagonist, like the author herself, is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee father and Israeli Jewish mother. Ahlam comes of age in the Arizona desert, physically safe from war but damaged by the bitter fighting between her parents that too often echoes events from the other side of the world.
In high school, she’s drawn to rebel Laura, initiating an intense relationship as they chase danger and destruction. Haunted by the mysterious deaths of fellow students, the pair flee to New York, hoping to invent themselves anew: Ahlam as a dancer, Laura as a singer. Despite distance, their demons linger, tempt, and ravage.
Richly voiced narrator Soneela Nankani subtly distinguishes between the present – as the adult Ahlam who’s returned to Arizona to help care for her hospitalized father – and the past – as younger Ahlam reveals her fraught relationship with the enigmatic Laura – by adroitly moderating her voice from eerie calm to frenetic desperation. Part coming-of-age tale, part political parable, part ghost story, Assadi’s already atmospheric narrative is further enhanced by Nankani’s skillful narration; acquiring libraries will also appreciate its YA crossover appeal.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult