A Guide to the Dark

Holt. Jul. 2023. 368p. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781250863218.
Gr 8 Up–When a freak car accident derails Mira and Layla’s spring break college visit road trip, the best friends check in at the nearest motel; at first glance, it seems charming enough (and so does Ellis, the cute front desk clerk). But almost immediately, Mira senses something off about their room; the nightmares she had after her brother drowned reappear, and not just when she’s asleep. Unfortunately, there is nowhere else to stay while the car is being repaired. When Ellis reveals that his father was actually the most recent in a string of deaths in Room 9, Mira can’t resist the chance to solve the mystery of why her brother is appearing and Layla, well—Layla would do anything for Mira, including put her life at risk in an effort to destroy the malignancy they’ve discovered. Mira and Layla’s as yet unspoken feelings for each other give rise to a tender tension from the very beginning that heightens as they slide closer toward honesty, but the disturbing things that have happened and are happening in the hotel room provide a strong contrast to that tenderness. Metoui’s use of the nuances of Mira and Layla’s Muslim American family dynamics to explore the coming out experience is skillful and compassionate. Black-and-white photographs taken by the author and asides from the perspective of the darkness break up a compelling narrative, and readers will have trouble putting this one down even for a minute. Readers should be aware of mentions of suicide in the book.
VERDICT A first purchase for any teen collection.

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