Out of Salem (Hardcover)
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Longlisted for the 2019 National Book Award for Young People's Literature
A Publishers Weekly Best Young Adult Book of 2019
The best Teen Zombie Werewolf Witchy Faerie fantasy murder mystery you've ever read—by debut author, Hal Schrieve.
Genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth has to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie after waking from death from a car crash that killed their parents and sisters. Always a talented witch, Z now can barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with their mother's friend, Mrs. Dunnigan, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered by what seems to be werewolves, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to "monsters," and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.
Rarely has a first-time author created characters of such immediacy and power as Z, Aysel, Tommy (suspected fey) and Elaine (also a werewolf), or a world that parallels our own so clearly and disturbingly.
About the Author
Hal Schrieve grew up in Olympia, Washington, and has never met a werewolf. Xie has worked as an after-school group leader, a summer camp counselor, a flower seller, a tutor, a grocer, and a babysitter. Hal has had poetry in Vetch magazine, and is featured in Stacked Deck Press's 2018 trans comics anthology We're Still Here. Hal earned hir Master's in Library Science from Queen's College and works as a Children's Librarian at New York Public Library. Out of Salem, hir debut novel, received starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly and was longlisted for the National Book Award for Young People's Literature. Hal lives in Brooklyn.
"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."
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"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."
—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
"In Hal Schrieve’s YA novel Out of Salem, everyone is treading water with a secret to keep. . . It’s urban fantasy of just-a-minute-ago, the Nineties as they almost were, but it’s also YA for people who weren’t born yet in the year it takes place; it balances teenage passion neatly against the now-slightly-foreign world of our past, only slightly sideslipped into the fantastic. . . [T]he characters aren’t without teenage flaws. . . They reach for what small happiness they can find, they trust or mistrust, and none of it feels stilted or contrived. It all just feels like survival. . . 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 for Lesbrary