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Cover Reveal: AZAR ON FIRE by Olivia Abtahi

Cover reveal! Finding her voice takes on a whole new meaning when fourteen-year-old Azar Rossi sets out to win her local Battle of the Bands contest in this heartfelt and hilarious contemporary YA. Get ready for Azar on Fire, from the author of Perfectly Parvin!

Fourteen-year-old Azar Rossi’s first year of high school has mostly been silent, and intentionally so. After a bad case of colic as a baby, Azar’s vocal folds are shredded—full of nodules that give her a rasp the envy of a chain-smoking bullfrog. Her classmates might just think she’s quiet, but Azar is saving her voice for when it really counts and talking to her classmates is not medically advisable or even high on her list.

When she hears about a local Battle of the Bands contest, it’s something she can’t resist. Azar loves music, loves songwriting, but with her vocal folds the way they are, there’s no way she can sing her songs on stage.

Then she hears lacrosse hottie, Ebenezer Lloyd Hollins the Fifth, aka Eben, singing from the locker room. She’s transfixed. He’s just the person she needs. His voice + her lyrics = Battle of the Bands magic. But getting a band together means Azar has a lot of talking to do and new friends to make. For the chance to stand on stage with Eben it might all just be worth it.

Scroll down to see the cover and read an early excerpt!

azar on fire

Illustrator: Kervin Brisseaux

Cover design: Kristie Radwilowicz 


The kitchen reeks of the yerba mate Mom always preps for her drive to DC. It tastes like oregano gone bad. Mom says it is an indigenous plant grown in the north of Argentina, where her dad, my abuelo, is from. I think she secretly just likes drinking it from its traditional gourd.

“Good morning, Azar,” she says formally. I give her a look like, Do I have to? and she nods gravely. I clear my throat.

“Good morning, Mother.” The words come out scratchy and warbly, like I tried to step on each note with a roller skate and they just slid out from under me. They’re the first words I’ve spoken today, and Mom does not look impressed.

“Did you stay up past your bedtime again? Your voice sounds worse than yesterday!” She says this accusingly, as if I have committed homicide. Of course I blew past my nine p.m. lights-out prison, and threw a towel under my door so she couldn’t see the light from my laptop as I uploaded more stuff to SoundCloud.

“Mom,” I begin to lie, my voice even, just the way Ms. Davolio, my speech pathologist, taught me. “I went to bed at nine p.m., after we watched Up in the Air.

Because we have no lives, I almost add. But don’t.

She shakes her head, gold hoops swinging. “Maybe we need to start quiet time earlier, like eight p.m., just to be safe.”

I sigh. Sure. Add it to my tab of misery.

“You’re right,” Mom says, even though I didn’t say anything. We’ve got our nonverbal cues down to a science at this point. “One thing at a time. Get dressed and shower—I’ll give you a ride to school.”

I wordlessly trudge back to my lair.

“And don’t forget to gargle!” she calls out.

The second I close my door, I get out my acoustic guitar, the one Dad got me a couple years ago when my throat infections started ramping up. Instruments are about the only thing Mom lets Dad buy for me, besides making deposits to my college fund. I’ve also got an electric drum kit with pads that connect to my computer, a keyboard, and a ukulele. Plus, I can rent instruments from school during lunch break. The guitar needs to be tuned, but I strum the chords anyway, singing lyrics in my head.

Azar, gargle with salt water

And wear something that has color.

I’ll give you a ride to school

If you become a better daughter.

Don’t burn the toast.

You had one job!

To not burn the toast!

And now I’m late for wooOoorrrrrk.

“Azar, are you getting dressed?” Mom demands through my thin bedroom wall. I can hear her blasting reggaetón through her tinny phone speakers in the kitchen, singing along to every word. I switch to a minor chord, the song going from light and fun to dark and dreary.

“AZAR!” Mom shouts. “Did you hear me?”

I get out my phone.

Azar Rossi (6:28 a.m.): yes, mother. i heard you.

Mom (6:28 a.m.): Then why aren’t you in the shower!

Azar Rossi (6:29 a.m.): yes sir captain sir.

Mom (6:29 a.m.): And don’t call me Mother!

The salt water gargle tastes disgusting, but the steam from the shower feels good on my throat. It’s way more soothing than the humidifier I run on my nightstand. I feel like one of those beached whales that people keep dumping water over to keep them moist. Only, instead of a whale, it’s a vital appendage inside my body.

The hot water runs out in three minutes, which is normal for our crummy apartment building. A sullen girl stares back at me in the bathroom mirror, her mouth a flat line with freckles spilled randomly across her face. She really, really does not want to return to school after winter break.

I don my jeans, T-shirt, and a bright orange sweater Mom got me for Xmas that she says “makes me more approachable.” It feels weird not wearing black.

“You’re killing me, Z. We’re gonna be late,” Mom says, popping her head through my bedroom door. There is no such thing as privacy in this apartment.


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Penguin Teen