cover image Ariel Crashes a Train

Ariel Crashes a Train

Olivia A. Cole. Labyrinth Road, $19.99 (464p) ISBN 978-0-593-64466-9

Queer 17-year-old Ariel Burns begins to fear her own mind when intrusive thoughts about harming others intensify during a pivotal summer in this arresting verse novel by Cole (Dear Medusa). Ariel likens the thoughts to a “green and scaly” crocodile, appeased only by careful rituals: counting, isolating, walking in circles, escaping into movies, and working her carnival job. But as the rituals lose efficacy, Ariel’s world narrows and past traumas surface. Recognizing her behaviors as symptoms of obsessive compulsive disorder, and lacking consent from her conservative, religious parents to attend therapy, Ariel manages her self-diagnosis with help from her older sister, coworkers, and new friends. Against a heady backdrop of carnival attractions and filmmaking that yield painfully apt metaphors for challenges surrounding identity, Cole sharply exposes the legal shortcomings and binary fallacies that sometimes complicate healing. Vivid, emotionally charged verse renders terse, illuminating discussions of gender, race, religion, and sex that candidly contextualize OCD, and give teeth to this dazzling, layered story of self-acceptance and agency. Ariel reads as white. An end note addresses the author’s experience with OCD. Ages 14–up. Agent: Patrice Caldwell, New Leaf Literary. (Mar.)