Alex Wise vs. the End of the World

Labyrinth Road. Sept. 2023. 416p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593564295.
Gr 4-7–What to do when the four horsemen of the apocalypse rise, and Death takes over the body of your nine-year-old little sister? Alex Wise will need to gather all his inner strength, accept himself, and assemble a horsemen-fighting super squad in this fast-paced, comedic fantasy. It’s the beginning of summer break, and Alex has one goal: to win back his former best friend, Sky, the only person he ever came out to. Unfortunately, Alex’s mother has other plans: shipping him and his sister, Mags, off on a cruise with their father and his sparkly new family, including a teenaged son who is rugged and athletic—seemingly everything that Alex is not. However, when Mags is kidnapped by a mysterious shadow man and then possessed, Alex doesn’t hesitate to throw himself fully into danger after her. Thankfully, Alex has his supportive BFF Loren by his side and is soon accompanied by Liam, a lonely and troubled demigod who grew up with the horsemen. After Alex is chosen by Orin, a nonbinary god of empathy, as their vessel, he and his new team of heroes must master their powers to save Mags. A central quest that embraces empathy and understanding as superpowers, featuring nearly all Black and brown characters, is refreshing; many teachers or parents will appreciate this book’s central message of trauma recovery and self-acceptance. Additionally, the lack of profanity, gore, or even intense peril make this a perfect choice for younger readers, particularly those looking for queer stories.
VERDICT With nonstop action that is always thrilling but never too scary, this fantasy is perfect for younger readers who are fans of Rick Riordan or Kwame Mbalia.

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