There are hundreds of YA books about magic, monsters, and teen angst so an author would need to do a lot to stand out in the already crowded field. Hal Schrieve does just that! Out of Salem blends classic monsters (NO VAMPIRES!) with LGBTQI characters. The pairing may seem odd but it truly does come together into something very special.
Out of Salem centers around two high school outcasts: Z and Aysel. Z is a genderqueer witch who becomes a zombie after a car accident kills them and their entire family and Aysel is a Turkish American, lesbian, unregistered werewolf. Though magic is prevalent in Salem, certain magical beings like zombies, werewolves, faeries, and shape-shifters are all regulated by the government and widely discriminated against. Z and Aysel must find a way to stop the rapid decay of Z’s newly undead body all while their town is quickly becoming more hostile towards the town’s monster residents.
Schrieve does a fabulous job developing the main characters and fully presenting their queer identities. The inclusion of queer monsters provided a unique format to explore the LGBTQI experience as well as the people’s fear of the Other. Just as Salem becomes overtaken by fear of werewolf terrorists, our current country is being run by fearmongers who refuse to accept – and actively oppress – people who look differently, love differently, or identify differently.
Though I liked the main characters, Out of Salem was not a complete success for me. I found the plot unfocused and the “world” was never fully realized. Certain story lines and supporting characters were not fleshed out and I was often left asking why/how/what and never getting the answers I was looking for.
Despite the flaws, I still enjoyed this charming queer-zombie-werewolf story and I fully believe the world could all use more creative and inclusive reads like Out of Salem.
** Advanced Reader Copy was provided by Seven Stories Press for an honest review
- Title: Out of Salem
- Author: Hal Schrieve
- Published: March 5, 2019 (Seven Stories Press)
- Genre: Young Adult, LGBT
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * *