Book Review: King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

King and the Dragonflies by Kacen Callender

Title: King and the Dragonflies

Author: Kacen Callender

Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction

Number of Pages: 272

Rating: A-

Recommended?: Yes

King and the Dragonflies is one of the best middle grade books I’ve read in a long time. I thoroughly enjoyed this last book I read by this author, Hurricane Child, but this was even better. It’s emotionally wrenching yet hopeful, with rich and complex characters and relationships. King and the Dragonflies is about a boy in a racially divided Louisiana community who’s struggling with his sexuality, the sudden death of his beloved older brother, and his intolerant parents. When the white son of an infamously racist father who’s bullied for being gay disappears, the main character (King) ends up having to make some tough decisions and face up to the ways in which he failed his missing friend.

I couldn’t stop reading this book. It tackled so many tough issues without being preachy and the characters were refreshingly complex, including the adults. The characters were morally ambiguous and the Callender didn’t patronize their young audience, giving King some truly difficult choices with potentially life-changing consequences. The only thing I didn’t like about this book was the subplot with King’s brother’s sleep talking. I’ve never heard of anybody sleep talking like that kid did and it felt like a forced and unrealistic way for King to connect with his brother. Overall, I loved this book and I hope to read everything by this author eventually.

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