The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

HarperCollins/Katherine Tegen Bks. Sept. 2020. 416p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9780062683250.
Gr 9 Up–Newly turned 18, aspiring artist Susan Arkshaw leaves home to attend college in London and to research her father’s identity. Chronically dreamy and detached, Susan’s mother Jassmine has always been tight-lipped about the matter. However, while visiting a family “friend” in London, Susan witnesses his death and joins a mysterious young man in flight from supernatural Old World creatures. Soon realizing that some Power is determined to stop her from solving the puzzle of her heritage, Susan gives in to the “weirdness” and teams up with her left-handed escape partner Merlin and his right-handed sister Vivien to find some answers. With the help of the siblings’ clandestine Bookseller organization, the trio embark on a quest for information that will take them across 1980s England and through a few very odd in-between spaces. A tribute to England—its myths, bookstores, and people—and a celebration of writers and stories in general, this is the fantasy novel equivalent of a cozy blanket and a cup of tea on a cold day: comforting and much needed. The story is full of wry humor such as jokes about how children’s authors (“a dangerous bunch!”) cause the Booksellers trouble by sharing stories steeped in truth. The novel is also a great example of Nix’s love for varied characters. Susan is described as muscular and wiry with a punk aesthetic and a shaved head with the stubble dyed blond. In contrast, fair-haired and delicate Merlin is perfectly comfortable sporting dresses or trousers. Other members of the Booksellers organization are represented by various ages, races, and gender expressions.
VERDICT This book promises to charm veteran Nix readers and welcome new fans into the fold. Recommended for school and public libraries.

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