Schwab, V.E. Gallant. HarperCollins Publishers, 2022. 352p. ISBN: 9780062835772 $18.99 HS, OT *****
When Olivia receives a letter from an uncle she never knew she had, she is delighted to leave the abusive boarding school she lives in and find a family who loves her. She might even uncover more about the mother who abandoned her there with a cryptic journal and mysterious warning to remember her by. But when she arrives, she finds no uncle and no welcome, only a crumbling mansion full of mysteries and ghosts only she can see. Now she must uncover the secret of Gallant house quickly because something does want her there and it’s not friendly.
Gallant is a wonderfully gothic fairytale about secrets, death, and bloodlines. While its frequent descriptions of death, blood, and other horror-like imagery might be too much for tweens and younger teens, your older teens and young adults will love being creeped out by the twists and turns of the story and the supernatural elements that run throughout it. The protagonist, Olivia, manages to avoid most of the worst tropes of YA fiction. She is free to make mistakes and get herself into and out of trouble, free from a shoehorned romance subplot, has clearly described goals, and a rich internal monologue. This internal dialogue is critical to the story, as Olivia is unable to speak and must fight to be heard in a world that is often inaccessible to people with disabilities. My absolute favorite part of the book is how oppressive it feels. The creeping claustrophobic tension of the story drips off every page and every scene. Even the brief moments of respite carry an undercurrent of danger. It’s definitely the best book I’ve read all year.
Recommend this to your goth and emo teens, those who love ghosts, zombies, and the macabre, and with anyone who feels out of place with their friends and classmates, especially if they have difficulty communicating (literally or metaphorically). This is also a great story for teens who don’t want romance in their story, a rare treat for YA fantasy novels of all types.
Content Warnings for death, self-harm, and ableism
–Erik Berman, Alameda County Library
Tags: bullying, fantasy, horror, mystery, supernatural, characters with disabilities