Amber McBride's debut, Me (Moth), won the 2022 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award, and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award and the National Book Award in Young People's Literature. Her second title, We Are All So Good at Smiling, is as powerful as the first--raw and poignant and promising hope, even when it seems there is no way out.
"This is what I know:/ my name is Whimsy & magic is real." Whimsy, hospitalized for clinical depression, meets Faerry, a "mint-green hair, winged boy," at the facility. "Hoodoo is real," she knows, and so are the Fae. The teens connect through their magic and are surprised to discover when they leave the program that Faerry's family has moved to Whimsy's street. But at the end of the road is "a Forest holding a Garden.../ where memories unweave/ unravel & (sometimes)/ trap us in lies." Whimsy is terrified of the Forest and has not gone beyond its edge in 10 years; Faerry believes he might find answers within. When Faerry ventures into the Forest, Whimsy follows him and both teens learn that when you're going through Hell, you must keep going.
McBride skillfully paints Whimsy's world of sorrow, magic and fairy tales in lilting, passionate poetry. Each chapter begins with a definition--a plant or tea leaf arrangement or fairy tale character--that sets the scene and foreshadows the events. McBride's use of myth and folk and fairy tales is manifold: they are metaphor, comfort and a starting place for healing. Whimsy and Faerry's journey into the Forest unlocks hidden memories from their childhoods, allowing the teens to remember and recover. --Kharissa Kenner, children's librarian, Bank Street School for Children