Cover Reveal: BREAK THIS HOUSE by Candice Iloh
From Printz honoree and National Book Award Finalist Candice Iloh, a prose novel about a teenager reckoning with her family’s–and her home town’s–secrets. Coming to shelves May 24, 2022!
Yaminah Okar left Obsidian and the wreckage of her family years ago. She and her father have made lives for themselves in Brooklyn. She thinks she’s moved on to bigger and better things. She thinks she’s finally left behind that city she would rather forget. But when a Facebook message about her estranged mother pierces Yaminah’s new bubble, memories of everything that happened before her parents’ divorce come roaring back. Now, Yaminah must finally reckon with the truth about her mother and the growing collapse of a place she once called home.
Scroll down to see the cover of Break This House and read a sneak peek!
Cover art: Yazmin Monet Butcher
Cover/jacket design: Anna Booth
“Yoooooo, mamaaaaaa. You got some extra change? Can you get me a soda?” I thought walking fast behind my biggest, blackest sunglasses, thumbing my phone like I got business, would have sent some type of signal to Old Man that I wasn’t tryna do all that today. He pauses, smiles with all his grayish ancient teeth, hands stuffed into his pockets. The no-need-to-be-scared-of-me stance I’m used to seeing on him, carefully chosen in hopes that I’ll let my guard down.
“You want a coffee?” I offer instead, continuing to walk. I don’t ever buy him soda. Or any of those other fake chemical excuses for food they got in there. Water, coffee, and sandwiches prepared on the grill only when I got it like that.
“I’ll take a coffee,” he accepts. The door jingles as I push quickly into the corner bodega. Old Man trails, head lowered, behind me. He makes a beeline for the coffee station while I split off down the aisle with all the chips. Fur grazes my ankle, and my instinct is to jump, but I fall back at ease looking down to see Bodega Cat greet me the way she always does. I try my best not to think about where she’s been or what she’s been doing with her life. Cats can’t take off their shoes after coming in from New York City streets like Pop makes me do, a never-ending reminder of how dirty this city is. And I don’t care that cats clean themselves all day with their own saliva. You can’t convince me licking yourself makes you clean. I grab Pop’s funky garlic chips—the purple bag with the palm tree next to the bright green lettering—right before heading to the back coolers for my juice and coconut water. Pop thinks he knows me or something. And how he gon’ send me in here for two whole jugs of water? Don’t none of these bodegas ever got grocery baskets. And don’t nobody ever come in here tryna buy enough to fill one. Most of this stuff’s usually stale anyway. I learned that the hard way last time I craved some Fruit Loops. Tragic.
“Is this crystalized . . . or granulated sugar? Or . . . or is it pure CANE sugar?” I hear Old Man asking Bobby at the register from the next aisle. My guy is homeless with rich millennial taste. Must have made his rounds in Williamsburg. One time he fussed at Bobby for putting American cheese instead of cheddar on a bacon, egg, and cheese that I’d bought him. “’Cause the CANE sugar is the good shit. That’s what I want in my coffee.” Bobby eyeballs Old Man as I come down the aisle, ignoring his question. “And wheeeeere is the hazelnut half-and-half? I likes my coffee CREAMY.”
I drop the juice, coconut water, and Pop’s chips and gallons on the counter. “I got this and his coffee.” Bobby mumbles something in Arabic as his eyes dart back and forth between the surveillance screen that hangs just above my head and Old Man, who’s thumbing the coffee counter for a lid, still talking to whomever he thinks is listening about hazelnut half-and-half. Bobby is never not looking like he’s worried and ready for somebody to steal something. Sometimes he barely even looks at me when I’m trying to hand him my money if somebody else is in there at the same time as me. But at least he don’t got somebody sitting right outside the bodega in a wooden box facing the door watching every customer that comes out like the dollar store across the street does. At least this one don’t got bulletproof glass we gotta speak into.
“All right, all right. Zas enough. Zas enough,” he calls out to Old Man now that he knows I’m paying. He adds the cost of everything up out loud. A small kid who looks just like him barely peeks over the counter and catches my eye from a stool he has perched just beyond the register. Behind his head is every kind of medicine, cigarette, or household appliance anyone could ever need. Options are stacked against the wall all the way to the ceiling. Pepto Bismol. Tylenol. Screwdrivers. Durags. Newports. Milk of Magnesia. Nasty. “Twelve dollars, baby. How you doing? No bacon and cheese? No cigarette?”
“I told you I don’t eat dead animals no more, Bobby. And I don’t even know what you talkin’ ’bout tryna sell me a loosie. I’m good,” I reply. I’m annoyed by his taunting smirk. Bobby asks me that almost every time I come in here like it ain’t been a whole year since I stopped eating meat. It’s annoying but at least he knows not to ask me about loosies in front of Pop. Don’t want him getting ideas. Grease snaps and sizzles loudly on the griddle filling the cramped storefront with hot pig smoke. I hand him the twenty and wait for him to count me back the change.
“Thank you, mama.” Old Man raises his coffee cup to me as if to toast to the only yes he’s heard all day and makes his way out with Bobby’s eyes glued on him until he’s fully out the door. I grab the bag of snacks and slide the gallons off the counter. I swear parents only have us so they can use us helpless kids for cheap labor.
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