Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything / Justine Pucella Winans
July 23, 2023 5:14 PM - Subscribe

Murder most fowl? In this sardonic and campy YA thriller, an anxious, introverted nonbinary teen birder somehow finds themself solving a murder mystery with their neighbor/fellow anime lover, all while falling for a cute girl from their birding group . . . and trying not to get murdered.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Torre is an avid birder undergoing a gender identity crisis and grappling with an ever-growing list of fears. Some, like Fear #6: Initiating Conversation, keep them constrained, forcing them to watch birds from the telescope in their bedroom. And, occasionally, their neighbors. When their gaze wanders from the birds to one particular window across the street, Bianca witnesses a creepy plague-masked murderer take their neighbor’s life. Worse, the death is ruled a suicide, forcing Bianca to make a choice—succumb to their long list of fears (including #3: Murder and #55: Breaking into a Dead Guy’s Apartment) or investigate what happened.

Bianca enlists the help of their friend Anderson Coleman, but the two have more knowledge of anime than true crime. As Bianca and Anderson dig deeper into the murder with a little help from Bianca’s crush and fellow birding aficionado, Elaine Yee (#13: Beautiful People, #11: Parents Discovering They’re A Raging Lesbian), the trio uncovers a conspiracy much larger—and weirder—than imagined. But when the killer catches wind of the investigation, Bianca’s #1 fear of public speaking doesn’t sound so bad compared to the threat of being silenced for good.

In this absurdist, bizarrely comical YA thriller that is at turns a deceptively deep exploration of anxiety and identity, perhaps the real murder investigation is the friends we make along the way.
posted by johnofjack (1 comment total)
This was a lot of fun and there's a lot I appreciated about it, including the casual diversity (Anderson is Black; he and his trans brother Ronan and his mother are well developed characters; Elaine is Asian-American and pansexual; Bianca is a nonbinary lesbian; one of Bianca's teachers is a married lesbian) and the way the plot forced the main character to start addressing many of her fears rather than continuing to hide from them.

I liked it a lot more than Kirkus did, but Kirkus seems to pride itself on its churlishness (perhaps mistaking it for critical acumen).
posted by johnofjack at 5:23 PM on July 23, 2023

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