cover image Flawless Girls

Flawless Girls

Anna-Marie McLemore. Macmillan/ Feiwel and Friends, $20.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-2508-6963-0

Determined to turn them into polite society girls, the grandmother of Latina sisters Isla, 17, and Renata, 20, enrolls them at Alarie House, a prestigious finishing school. While Renata is impressed by her poised and pastel-dressed housemates, Isla senses “something off” and leaves. After Renata returns home unrecognizable, threatens Isla, and runs away, Isla endeavors to win her sister back by becoming an Alarie girl. Though Isla makes friends with queer rule-breaker Paz and Carina she struggles to perform through feelings of self-doubt relating to past bullying and constant comparison to Renata, which highlights the differences Isla (who is intersex, according to an author’s note) sees between her own body and those of the other girls. As she creeps closer to the secret violent nature of the house, Isla receives terrifying visions (“Her mouth was a geode, broken open and filled with crystals”). McLemore (The Mirror Season) expertly layers dreamlike descriptions (“like a drop of gilded rain”) to craft the otherworldly, gothic atmosphere in which this sensitive portrait of an intersex person unfolds. Mixing horror and fantasy, the deftly woven plot simmers to a satisfactory if perfunctory conclusion. Supporting characters are intersectionally diverse. Ages 13–up. (May)