Elizabeth Hand–Illyria

The What: Cousins Maddy and Rogan were born on the same day, hours apart. Each the youngest of six siblings, they seek solace in each other even as their massive family threatens to tear them apart. They can’t bring themselves to entirely break with their family’s legacy, though: their great-grandmother was a famous actress, and it seems that the two of them have inherited her talent. When the cousins are cast in their school’s production of “Twelfth Night,” events are set in motion that will change their lives forever.

The Good: This is a pitch-perfect story, and it is beautifully written. I feel as though I would know Arden Terrace on sight. Hand evokes a dreamy, ethereal feeling and sustains it throughout the book, even when relating the most mundane details; the narrative camera is always in soft focus. I appreciate her choice of an older narrator looking back on a younger self, given the rarity of that point of view in contemporary YA lit.  And ohmigod, one of the characters is bisexual, and it is not a big deal. Elizabeth Hand, you are my newest writer-crush.

The Meh: It ends so soon! After slogging through the description-heavy beginning, I connected to these characters, and then… nothing. The end. 135 pages is an awkward length: either this needs to be the story of Maddy and Rogan’s early years, or it needs to be the saga of the arc of their love, but the current arrangement feels curtailed.

Hand It To: Character and setting readers, and theater nerds.