cover image Bright Red Fruit

Bright Red Fruit

Safia Elhillo. Make Me a World, $19.99 (384p) ISBN 978-0-59-338120-5

Sixteen-year-old Samira has never kissed a boy, let alone done any of the things her former crush claims they did. Still, rumors spread like wildfire throughout her tight-knit Sudanese community. Now labeled a “bad girl,” her strict mother upends Samira’s vision of a perfect summer by placing her on indefinite house arrest, the monotony of which is only broken by Samira’s attending a teen poetry workshop that her aunt drives her to and from. When social media posts of her classmates enjoying the summer and the distance between her and her mother become too much, Samira looks to an online poetry message board for connection. There, she meets an older, magnetic poet named Horus. For the first time, someone is complimenting her poetry—and her. But as their relationship develops, Samira is forced to keep secrets that jeopardize her reputation, her relationships, and herself. In perceptive verse, Elhillo (Home Is Not a Country) navigates hard-hitting topics such as grooming, predation, and sex shaming. Samira’s journey of self-discovery—and the external forces trying to dim her light—are sensitively and richly wrought, culminating in both a mesmerizing verse novel and a gripping exploration of the hyper-policing of Black girls’ bodies and sexuality. Ages 12–up. Agent: Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary. (Feb.)