Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore (Feiwel and Friends 978-1-250-62414-7, $18.99, 304pp, hc) March 2022. Cover by Carolina Rodriguez Fuenmayor.
The delicate contemporary fantasy Lakelore uses author Anna-Marie McLemore’s familiar lush language to describe a strange and beautiful world beneath a lake and the two teenagers who explore it. The magic elements are subtle and largely expressed through the papier-mâché construction of alebrije, Mexican folk art sculptures of imaginary creature which come to life in the narrative. The alebrije are created by Bastián, one of the two protagonists, who, along with their friend Lore, is on a personal journey to discover themselves and how they fit in the world.
McLemore’s previous books, including Wild Beauty and The Mirror Season, have showcased the author’s deft touch in weaving magic through plots that include mystery and family drama. In Lakelore the teens are each on a quest to fully embrace their nonbinary status, while also dealing with ADHD and dyslexia, and these coming-of-age journeys propel the plot far more than the magic elements. While Bastián and Lore try to learn more about what lies beneath the lake, and how Bastián’s alebrije fit into that world, their friendship develops into romance, and they each become comfortable in who they are. Along the way there is a fun group of friends, supportive parents, a possibly haunted house, and an intuitive therapist. The alebrije are the most important plot point, however, and are key to the lake’s gorgeous secrets.
There are several layers to Lakelore, but I think its strongest appeal can be found in the frank conversations between Bastián and Lore, such as when they discuss a personal daily ‘‘gender forecast.’’ McLemore does more than just give diversity lip service in this novel, and the specific way in which Bastián’s ADHD combines with their artistic talent, resulting in the alegrije construction, is a new riff on how magic can unexpectedly manifest through personal struggle. The narrative’s multiple coming-of-age aspects can sometimes push aside the plot’s magical elements and decrease the suspense, but for all its watery mystery Lakelore has no intention of being a thriller. This is a title to savor, and for readers with questions similar to the protagonists, it will be one to love.
Colleen Mondor, Contributing Editor, is a writer, historian, and reviewer who co-owns an aircraft leasing company with her husband. She is the author of “The Map of My Dead Pilots: The Dangerous Game of Flying in Alaska” and reviews regularly for the ALA’s Booklist. Currently at work on a book about the 1932 Mt. McKinley Cosmic Ray Expedition, she and her family reside in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska. More info can be found on her website: www.colleenmondor.com.
This review and more like it in the July 2022 issue of Locus.
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