Landscape With Invisible Hand
By M.T. Anderson
Candlewick, 160 pages, $22.99
National Book Award-winner M.T. Anderson's latest is a slim, stark, brilliant cultural commentary. The vuvv are an alien race that have been observing Earth since the 1940s, but now they rule the planet and humans struggle to survive while still worshipping their new overlords. Adam, a teenage painter, is trying to support his mother and sister by starring in a vuvv reality show with his girlfriend. Anderson effortlessly and hilariously makes profound observations about how our society is built on prejudice, ignorance and injustice. Readers will cringe, both because of how Adam suffers, and from potentially recognizing parts of themselves in the vuvv when they dismiss people out of ignorance and privilege. This is a satirical portrait of the artist as a young man and a resonant portrait of contemporary society.
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women
Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
Annick Press, 112 pages, $19.95
"[I]t is time to tell ourselves and our daughters/ the things that should have been said." Those are the words of Helen Knott (Dane Zaa/Cree) in her poem The Things We Taught Our Daughters. Knott is one of more than 50 contributors in this anthology that shows there is no singular definition of Indigenous womanhood, though editors Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale do organize the pieces to illuminate some common themes: the vital importance of history, the dangers Indigenous women face in their everyday lives and how a lack of knowledge propagates damaging stereotypes. The content bursts with inspiration, beauty and self-awareness, ranging from Winona Linn's (Meskwaki) comic on the origin of her name ("I wasn't named for our tragic nymph," in reference to Winona Ryder) to Shayna Jackson (Dakota/Cree) in black-and-white photographs channelling Audrey Hepburn.
The Last Namsara
By Kristen Ciccarelli
HarperTeen, 432 pages, $21.99
Ontario author Kristen Ciccarelli's debut novel is a lesson in how story and myth shape a civilization – with lots of dragons. Our hero, Asha, is reviled and feared despite being the King's daughter. As a child, she instigated a deadly dragon attack by luring the beast to the kingdom with old, strictly forbidden tales. Now 17, Asha is still trying to make amends by killing all the dragons she can. Ciccarelli has written an accessible high fantasy, and one that readers who normally avoid anything with dungeons and/or dragons will enjoy (this novel has both). She creates a fully immersive world before tearing it apart, casting doubt on who is bad, who is good and who is telling the truth. Many teens will be adults by the time the next season of Game of Thrones is released and this is a worthy way to pass the time.