Sonderbooks Stand-out

Sonderbooks Book Review of


by Anna-Marie McLemore

read by Vico Ortiz and Avi Roque


by Anna-Marie McLemore
read by Vico Ortiz and Avi Roque

Review posted February 4, 2023.
Recorded Books, 2022. 6 hours, 29 minutes.
Review written October 25, 2022, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2022 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#5 Teen Paranormal Fiction

In my years of reading speculative fiction for the Cybils, I've become a fan of Anna-Marie McLemore. I didn't think of myself as a fan of magical realism until I started loving her books. They also often include wonderfully nuanced representation of transgender characters.

Lakelore features two transgender teens. Bastián is a transgender boy and Lore is transgender nonbinary. Both have brown skin, and both have encountered discrimination and bullying.

Both kids have also dealt with brains that don't work like other people's. Bastián has ADHD and has learned to manage his thought processes so he can function. As part of that management, his brother taught him to make alebrijos, fantastical creatures made of wire and papier-mâché. When something is bothering Bastián so much he can't stop thinking about it, he makes an alebrijo and puts that energy into it. Then he releases the alebrijo into the world under the lake, the one no one else knows about, and it gets out of his mind.

Well, almost no one else knows about the world under the lake. One day when they were nine years old, Lore was visiting the lake on a field trip and ran from a bully. She ran past Bastián, and much to both of their surprise, the world under the lake opened up for Lore as well, and she was able to hide there until the bully had stopped looking for her.

Now they are sixteen, and after a disaster at school, Lore's family has moved to the town by the lake. It's summer, but when she encounters Bastián, they both remember. Lore has dyslexia, and that has added to the bullying she's encountered.

But after Lore shows up in town, the world under the lake starts coming to them. The alebrijos come to life and swim through the air to find them. The walls in Lore's new home echo with a ghostly laugh that only she can hear, and she sees water coming up from the lake.

What does it all mean? And what does it have to do with the parts of themselves they're hiding from one another?

This book gives a wonderful portrayal of how it feels to be transgender, as well as how it feels to live with ADHD and dyslexia. The paranormal context make it much more interesting than a problem novel, though. Really beautiful writing and a wonderful story of friendship and learning to reach self-acceptance.