Out of Salem
When genderqueer fourteen-year-old Z Chilworth wakes from death after a car crash that killed their parents and sisters, they have to adjust quickly to their new status as a zombie. Always a talented witch, Z can now barely perform magic and is rapidly decaying. Faced with rejection from their remaining family members and old friends, Z moves in with Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly witch, and befriends Aysel, a loud would-be-goth classmate who is, like Z, a loner. As Z struggles to find a way to repair the broken magical seal holding their body together, Aysel fears that her classmates will discover her status as an unregistered werewolf. When a local psychiatrist is murdered in an apparent werewolf attack, the town of Salem, Oregon, becomes even more hostile to monsters, and Z and Aysel are driven together in an attempt to survive a place where most people wish that neither of them existed.

Out of Salem Details

TitleOut of Salem
Author
ReleaseMar 5th, 2019
PublisherTriangle Square
ISBN-139781609809010
Rating
GenreLGBT, Fantasy, Young Adult, Horror, Zombies

Out of Salem Review

  • Alexa
    January 1, 1970
    4.5 starsRTCrepresentation: nonbinary main, Muslim lesbian main, several LGBTQAI+ and POC side characterscontent notes: misgendering and deadnaming (mostly due to character being closeted, not intentional), death of family members, body horror (because zombies), police brutality, racist rallies, bullying--nonbinary protagonist ✓nonbinary author ✓zombies ✓witches ✓werewolves ✓in Salem?! ✓yeah this is going on my TBR
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  • Siavahda
    January 1, 1970
    Give me this immediately, oh my actual gods???
  • Becca
    January 1, 1970
    DNF @ 60%Thank you to Edelweiss+ for a copy of Out of Salem in exchange for an honest review.I don't usually DNF books that I get to review; no matter how bad it is, I try to stick with it until the end. However, with Out of Salem, I felt myself dreading each time that I picked it up and it was starting to put me in a severe reading slump. Because I'm DNF'ing it, I will not be putting a star-rating on this book, nor will I be putting this review on my blog.There are definite pros to Out of Salem DNF @ 60%Thank you to Edelweiss+ for a copy of Out of Salem in exchange for an honest review.I don't usually DNF books that I get to review; no matter how bad it is, I try to stick with it until the end. However, with Out of Salem, I felt myself dreading each time that I picked it up and it was starting to put me in a severe reading slump. Because I'm DNF'ing it, I will not be putting a star-rating on this book, nor will I be putting this review on my blog.There are definite pros to Out of Salem, such as it's representation. Z is a genderqueer zombie & Aysel is a lesbian werewolf. It's those two aspects that originally sold me on this book. I absolutely loved reading Z go by they/them pronouns, because I feel that I haven't read many books with that rep. Plus, I'm always here for supernatural LGBT+ beings. Another pro to Out of Salem is the fact that Virgina Woolf and Ernest Hemingway were apparently werewolves. Silly things like that makes me extremely giddy. As for the writing & dialogue, I just couldn't get into it (but! remember! this is an advanced readers copy -- things can change!) There's just too much cringe. & the character development is so unbelievable & tacky. One of the characters, Tommy, tells Z a secret -- a character he practically just met & goes, "I'm telling you this, because I trust you". I'm sorry -- what? Thankfully, Z responds with, "Don't trust me. I don't even know you." At least someone is making sense. There are other conversations sprinkled throughout the book that made me want to drop this book a long time ago. There's nothing that grasped my attention plot-wise and character wise. I didn't find myself getting attached or even caring about the characters; their personalities were very meh to me. There are a lot of unnecessary scenes in this story that does absolutely nothing to push the story forward.I'm sure that there are going to be a lot of people who won't agree with me and this review. & if that's you, I'm very happy that you enjoyed this book! It just wasn't for me.
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  • Sarah (CoolCurryBooks)
    January 1, 1970
    Do you want a YA novel about a lesbian werewolf and a genderqueer zombie becoming friends? You bet you do! And Out of Salem is just that book!In a horrible accident, Z’s entire family died. And so did they. Only, they’re still walking. Z’s looking at a new, uncertain future as an orphaned zombie in a world that hates zombies. They’ve lost their family, their friends, and their life. They’re lucky enough to have Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly lesbian witch and family friend, for support, but their bod Do you want a YA novel about a lesbian werewolf and a genderqueer zombie becoming friends? You bet you do! And Out of Salem is just that book!In a horrible accident, Z’s entire family died. And so did they. Only, they’re still walking. Z’s looking at a new, uncertain future as an orphaned zombie in a world that hates zombies. They’ve lost their family, their friends, and their life. They’re lucky enough to have Mrs. Dunnigan, an elderly lesbian witch and family friend, for support, but their body is deteriorating by the day and all information on zombism is censored.Aysel is another fourteen-year-old at Z’s school, and she also has a secret — she’s an unregistered werewolf. Werewolves are required to report to the government to be held in facilities where they will endure electroshock therapy to suppress their shapeshifting. In Z, Aysel sees the potential for a friend who will understand what it’s like to be a monster.As their small town of Salem, Oregon is rocked by the death of a psychiatrist in what’s a supposed werewolf attack, Aysel and Z will have to rely on themselves, each other, and their friends and allies to survive in an environment increasingly hostile to anyone perceived as monstrous.Where do I even start with Out of Salem? It’s utterly fantastic and sure to be among my favorite releases of 2019. First off, it’s a queer friendship story, which is something I’ve been desperately longing for more of, and I know a lot of people feel the same. Especially in fiction, queerness is often equated with romance, and so many stories ignore the reality of queer friend groups. Like most of my really close friends in high school were queer… and we became friends even before most of us were out. And this isn’t a scenario unique to me!Secondly, I love the world building in Out of Salem. It’s set in an alternate history version of the 90’s, so it mixes historical and urban fantasy. In the world of the story, most people have some sort of magic, and spellwork is a core part of the academic curriculum. Being a witch is perfectly respectable. In fact, it’s normal. But werewolves, zombies, and shapeshifters are all magical minorities who face large-scale societal discrimination. It’s a pretty chilling dystopia. For example, if Z doesn’t have a human caretaker, then the state is legally allowed to dispose of them since the walking dead aren’t considered to be human any longer.It’d be easy for a book like Out of Salem to follow the tropes of other YA books mixing dystopia with urban fantasy. In such a story, Z and Aysel would join a monster rebellion, probably become the leaders, topple the government, and all the problems of persecution and discrimination would be solved. Out of Salem isn’t like that, and it’s so much more scary for the realism with which it handles Z and Aysel’s lives. The two are fourteen-year-olds trying to survive in a world hostile to their existence, and there’s nowhere for them to run. There’s no promise of a far-away safe harbor free of oppression, and even finding participating in larger communities opens them up to danger.I feel like Out of Salem also avoids a lot of the pitfalls that typically characterize fantasy oppression — you know, when magic users or werewolves or whatever are the marginalized and oppressed group. That’s mostly because both Z and Aysel are marginalized in real-life ways. Z’s genderqueer, and Aysel’s also Muslim in addition to being lesbian. Out of Salem‘s focus on the dystopic oppression of fantasy monsters makes it bearable to read about in a way I don’t know if I could have handled otherwise. Look, I’m getting stressed out enough when reading about anti-werewolf bigotry!Z and Aysel are both great protagonists who I quickly grew attached to. They’re both trying to survive and also hoping to find friendship and community too. The supporting cast was also strong, and I particularly loved Aysel’s relationship with her mom. Her mother knows Aysel is a werewolf but has chosen not to report her to the government and devotes herself to helping Aysel have the best life possible.It took me a little bit to get into Out of Salem, but once I was in, I was all in. I soon became swept away by the narrative of Salem’s growing anti-monster sentiment and the young monsters living through it. This whole book reminds me a bit of one of my long-time favorites, Sunshine by Robin McKinley. I think it mostly comes down to the urban fantasy world building and how it seems to beyond the boundaries of the page, becoming something expansive and all-encompassing.As a book from a small press, Out of Salem isn’t likely to get a huge marketing push. I guess I’ll need to be extra loud about how amazing it is then because this is a book that more than deserves an audience.I received an ARC with the expectation of a free and honest review.Review from The Illustrated Page.
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  • Danielle
    January 1, 1970
    (I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)I am all about LGBTQ+ **GENRE FICTION**, so this book was right up my alley. I definitely want to see more genderqueer and GNC characters fighting monsters or being "monsters" or living in a world with monsters... any of that, and I'm there for it. In that regard, this book met all of my expectations.It was hard to find my footing in this world, though. It is an alternate reality of Oregon in the 90s. It (I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.)I am all about LGBTQ+ **GENRE FICTION**, so this book was right up my alley. I definitely want to see more genderqueer and GNC characters fighting monsters or being "monsters" or living in a world with monsters... any of that, and I'm there for it. In that regard, this book met all of my expectations.It was hard to find my footing in this world, though. It is an alternate reality of Oregon in the 90s. It can take a while to understand what legislation and discrimination exist in that world. Additionally, as an Oregonian, it irked me that Salem was described as a drive-through rural town on the highway... if that was supposed to be a part of the alternate reality for some reason, I missed where it was established.I didn't love the characterization and the plot was MEH at points, but I believe that these are narrators that teens want and need to hear from. For that reason, we can totally amplify this book. It's a great choice for classroom and school libraries.
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  • Hannah
    January 1, 1970
    My review in video format you can find here --> Witchy Reviews: OUT OF SALEM by HAL SCHRIEVE aka diversity gem
  • Briar Ripley
    January 1, 1970
    So I love monsters, right? I *especially* love sympathetic monsters, whether they're the tragic and conflicted kind who do unspeakable things but feel bad about it, or friendly monsters who are basically just weird-looking people with odd habits, or, as here, monsters whose monstrosity serves as a very obvious metaphor for belonging to any number of real life marginalized groups. OUT OF SALEM both enhances and complicates that metaphor by making its monster heroes queer and otherwise outsiders i So I love monsters, right? I *especially* love sympathetic monsters, whether they're the tragic and conflicted kind who do unspeakable things but feel bad about it, or friendly monsters who are basically just weird-looking people with odd habits, or, as here, monsters whose monstrosity serves as a very obvious metaphor for belonging to any number of real life marginalized groups. OUT OF SALEM both enhances and complicates that metaphor by making its monster heroes queer and otherwise outsiders in many real life ways *at the same time as* they're zombies, werewolves, and fae. That's exciting to me now, and it's especially exciting to my inner teenager, who was used to finding queerness in their YA and genre fiction mostly by squinting through layers of metaphor and subtext, or by focusing on peripheral characters and villains. Although this novel is set in an alternate universe version of 1997's Salem, Oregon, where magic is a real and normal part of daily life and monsters of all kinds are known to exist and brutally discriminated against, it feels extremely timely and of the time in which it was written (the U.S. in the 2010's). That's not a bad thing! The antagonistic forces in OUT OF SALEM aren't malign mystical forces; there's no cartoonish Dark Lord character encroaching on the normal world. Instead, the normal world itself is the antagonist; society is shown over and over again to be profoundly unjust and unsafe for anyone who's too "different", who stands up for the downtrodden too vehemently, who makes a convenient scapegoat. I suspect that five years ago I might have criticized the depiction of this oppression and danger as making an overly heavy-handed, repetitive, simplistic point, but I was kind of a naive chode five years ago, and I lived in a different world. These days, I welcome any literature, maybe especially literature for kids and teens, that's willing to take a blunt, firm, angry stand against bigotry, right-wing hate/fear-mongering, and cops. The blunter and harder to miss or misinterpret the better, really! (That said, OUT OF SALEM does have several scenes of teenagers being hurt/threatened/beaten/shot at/etc. for "being monsters" that were pretty hard to read precisely *because* they depicted realistic child abuse and police brutality despite the fantasy veneer. It was always a relief to me when the book would segue from those scenes into more magic-based confrontations.) OUT OF SALEM hit a few stylistic sour notes for me-- the prose is fine, but the author repeatedly uses some sentence constructions/turns of phrase I find awkward--, but they were things that could easily have been fixed with another quick editing pass. I really enjoyed all the characters and their relationships. Nonbinary teen zombie Z, who spends most of the novel literally falling to pieces (in the first chapter they accidentally remove their eyeball from its socket while trying to take out their contact lenses, and it gets MUCH worse) is probably my favorite, but they're all sharply drawn and intensely likable. Schrieve has a great handle on how teenagers, and people in general, really think and talk. Much to my joy, there is NO ROMANCE AT ALL in this fantasy YA, let alone a boy/girl star-crossed love affair or will-they-won't-they, but there is a GREAT DEAL of *extremely* swoon-worthy friendship content, especially towards the end. Worth mentioning as a final note are the excellent ink illustrations of lead characters Z the zombie and Aysel the werewolf on the inside of the cover; I was actually disappointed there weren't other illustrations in the book itself!
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  • Booky Nooky
    January 1, 1970
    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 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
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  • Ley
    January 1, 1970
    Ho. Ly. Shit. This is one of the most original, important books I've read this year!First of all, there is rep coming out the wazoo. Hal is a nonbinary author, writing a nonbinary main character (Z) and a plus-sized nonwhite lesbian best friend. So. We got that covered!I will go ahead and say, there's a lot of misgendering/dead-naming/out of date terms in this book. HOWEVER, a) Z only tells a few people that they're not entirely a girl but not a boy either, b) Z also only tells a few people that Ho. Ly. Shit. This is one of the most original, important books I've read this year!First of all, there is rep coming out the wazoo. Hal is a nonbinary author, writing a nonbinary main character (Z) and a plus-sized nonwhite lesbian best friend. So. We got that covered!I will go ahead and say, there's a lot of misgendering/dead-naming/out of date terms in this book. HOWEVER, a) Z only tells a few people that they're not entirely a girl but not a boy either, b) Z also only tells a few people that they want to be called Z, and c) the book is set in the 90s, when being gay was still considered being mentally ill.Hokay, now for the story.Z doesn't remember much about the wreck except for it happening. They're left with their uncle, who works with the government to make sure magical beings don't get out of hand (like werewolves, zombies, etc.). But Z doesn't want to stay with their uncle, because, well, they're undead. Their best guess is that their mother worked some major necromancer magic to keep the family safe. But said spell only counts if, ya know, the entire family didn't die in one fell swoop.Aysel is a Turkish-American lesbian, fat, and a werewolf. She's raised by her single mom, Azra, and just wants to be the goth badass she knows deep in her heart she is. She latches on to Z as a best friend, and comes out to her (about three times).Werewolves are considered the MOST dangerous creatures, next to shapeshifters. They contain a ridiculous amount of magical energy, which makes them hard to control. Hence why Aysel is constantly freaking out about people ever finding out she's a wolf.I loved this story right up to the end. It touches on some SUPER important, timely themes (gender identity, race relations, etc), but the end lost me. I thought I had an idea of where the story was going, but it ended up going in a VERY different direction.At its core, Out of Salem is a love story. Not because of romantic love, but because of a love that's so deep and pure, where someone is on your side no matter what, where there's immense amounts of trust. It's absolutely beautiful.Entirely original while still fitting in with timely themes, Out of Salem is the queer YA novel of 2019. I give it 4.5 out of 5 temporary tattoos.
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    Note: This review is of the ARCA zombie, werewolf, and "monster" story that explores topics like xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, immigration, classism, and racism in an Oregon town. I enjoyed the mythology of this story, how it described the ways the US government and society would act if zombies, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, etc. existed in our country, not just as abnormalities, but as visible fixtures in our communities.The tone of this story may not be everyone's c Note: This review is of the ARCA zombie, werewolf, and "monster" story that explores topics like xenophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia, homophobia, immigration, classism, and racism in an Oregon town. I enjoyed the mythology of this story, how it described the ways the US government and society would act if zombies, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, etc. existed in our country, not just as abnormalities, but as visible fixtures in our communities.The tone of this story may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love the dark and slow horror feel that could be described as a pacific northwest gothic.I think the only criticism that I have is that the ending felt confusing and abrupt. The imagery and events of the climactic scene were a bit choppy and hard to follow. The sudden end of the story also felt less like the thrill of a cliffhanger, and more like suddenly hitting a wall. I expected to turn the page and see one last chapter to wrap everything up or lead into a possible sequel, but there was nothing. I'm all here for ambiguous endings, but this felt blunt and unsatisfying (especially after the chaos of the climax!)Overall, I enjoyed the bulk of this book and I can't wait to see what else Hal Schrieve comes out with in the future!
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  • Ivy
    January 1, 1970
    Seeing the word genderqueer used correctly for once is very gratifying.
  • october
    January 1, 1970
    Schrieve writes from a deep well of empathy and experience for what it's like to be an LGBTQ kid. And honestly, I hope my review does this book justice. While the plot springs from the book's urban fantasy world-building, there's a lot of themes which will resonate with you if you're currently living or have lived through a LGBTQ adolescence. The deep friendships that the main characters form in their hostile small town, for example, feel vital and real. If you've been there, if you've had the m Schrieve writes from a deep well of empathy and experience for what it's like to be an LGBTQ kid. And honestly, I hope my review does this book justice. While the plot springs from the book's urban fantasy world-building, there's a lot of themes which will resonate with you if you're currently living or have lived through a LGBTQ adolescence. The deep friendships that the main characters form in their hostile small town, for example, feel vital and real. If you've been there, if you've had the messy friendships, of course you know all about getting into something bigger than you can handle because you have to help your friend. Of course you know that these things are deadly serious in a way that the adults in your life largely can't help you with or don't care about. When I went through this stuff as a teenager, I projected on stories about plausibly-queer people in circumstances unlike my own but for the fact they felt precarious and tragic. (You may have noticed how a lot of young transmascs get obsessed with characters from the Iliad. Well, maybe that's why. Not that I'd know anything about that, of course.) I genuinely hope that Out of Salem, and books like Out of Salem, offer to somebody out there and young a reflection of their circumstances that they need to sustain them. And I'm glad that it moves beyond metaphor into depicting specific LGBTQ experiences. I'm glad that it deals explicitly with transphobia, and racism, and homophobia. I'm glad that it deals with a young person who sometimes feels that they don't want to live in the world. I'm glad that these characters, despite everything, find love and strength in the bonds they make with each other. And while I don't want to reduce these characters to a list of representational check-boxes, I loved seeing a genderqueer protagonist in fantasy whose gender shit worked like a real person rather than another goddamn shape-shifting alien. Out of Salem depicts a lot of shit that I and people I loved struggled with in adolescence-- because we weren't shape-shifting aliens. (Before the two properly meet, the book's other protagonist, Aysel, refers to Z as "the one who only wears the blue sweatshirt all the time". We are officially out of the planet of shape-shifting aliens, far into the territory of "oh shit, I feel clocked". ) Fair warning: Almost all of the adult characters misgender and deadname Z; some readers might feel shitty about that part. The choice worked for me because, honestly, cis adults are terrible. Even the cis adults in this book who emphatically aren't terrible, who love and support Z, are in this one way terrible. That seems like the case in many parts of the real world, unfortunately. This book depicts a lot of things that are terrible, but remain the case in many parts of the world. I recommend reading it, if you're up for that.(Spoilers for details about the ending.)(view spoiler)[ This book has a lovely, ambiguous ending. It's cathartic to watch these characters unknit their shitty society with magic, and really fucking cool.Despite escaping all of the terrible shit woven into their society, the protagonists have no idea where they're going to end up upon exploring the new world. But now they have hope. Not hope as in a conviction that everything's going to be okay, but a sense that maybe the future will not suck. I love the simplicity of the line Z says to their friends (or comrades) in the final scene. "'I think today is going to be better than yesterday'". And then they all start climbing the staircase together, hand in hand. (hide spoiler)]
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  • Jessica (Spooky KidLit & We Who Walk Here, Walk Alone)
    January 1, 1970
    Out of Salem is an incredible swirl of ideas and genres, an inventive and intersectional horror story that subverts popular zombie tropes and uses sci-fi/fantasy elements to force readers to confront their own privilege. Set in an alternate version of the United States in 1997 — where folks like werewolves, fae, and selkies exist and nearly everyone is capable of performing magic — the book examines bigotry, reactionary politics, police brutality, and the intersection of class, race, religion, s Out of Salem is an incredible swirl of ideas and genres, an inventive and intersectional horror story that subverts popular zombie tropes and uses sci-fi/fantasy elements to force readers to confront their own privilege. Set in an alternate version of the United States in 1997 — where folks like werewolves, fae, and selkies exist and nearly everyone is capable of performing magic — the book examines bigotry, reactionary politics, police brutality, and the intersection of class, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, and disability in the face of such dangers. I can safely say that this is the only work of art that has ever made me sit down and do some serious introspection AND made me wonder: “Can you really still see out of a dislocated eyeball?”The main characters are Z (they/them/theirs), a genderqueer zombie, and Aysel (she/her/hers), a fat Turkish-American lesbian werewolf. (You see now why I was dying to read this book.) Both explore their identities throughout the novel, but that exploration is less about finding themselves and more about finding a way to explain to the world who they are. Author Hal Schrieve (xie/hir/hirs), who is also trans, makes it clear that there’s no confusion on Z’s part about being genderqueer. For Z and Aysel, coming of age means learning to verbalize what they know in their souls to be true about their respective identities.The community that Z and Aysel discover and the found family that they ultimately form is a huge part of that coming of age story. Finding other people who share their experiences — whether as queer teens or as magical beings or, for Aysel, as a non-white kid in a majority white town — helps them understand themselves better and feel less alone. Schrieve draws parallels between so many of these marginalized identities and how they are treated by the government and society: lycanthropy is linked very closely with mental illness, for example, and hir point about the ways that the system fails and oppresses both werewolves and the mentally ill is crystal clear.For all the heavy issues Schrieve examines in Out of Salem, though, it’s the small, quiet moments that struck me the most about this book. There’s a straightforward clarity to hir prose that lets hir grasp of emotional nuance shine through, and xie tucks away tiny pockets of emotional truth in perfect, random little details that would feel like throwaway lines in the hands of another writer. I was never prepared for these lovely little moments, and they took my breath away every time.Schrieve obviously understands and respects hir teen audience, which is always heartening (but unfortunately never a given) in a YA novel. Though there are a few rich metaphors, xie makes little attempt to layer the political and cultural statements in subtext, choosing instead to lay them out explicitly and matter-of-factly. Obviously teen readers are more than capable of comprehending subtext, but Schrieve’s approach feels appropriate: xie seems to be saying that the plot of the story, and our own very similar current political climate, are so urgent that there’s little time to be coy about the state of things. I think teen readers will connect with this sense of urgency and appreciate being treated with such forthrightness and respect.Representation matters, and a lot of readers will see themselves represented in these pages. Story also matters, and Out of Salem is an incredible one: it has inventive world-building, thrilling suspense, authentic and touching friendships, compelling body horror, and a clever subversion of the typical zombie narrative. There is so much going on in this book that, frankly, Hal Schrieve has no right to make it all work, but xie does…simply, beautifully, and miraculously, xie does.My thanks to Triangle Square and Edelweiss+ for providing an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.Content warnings: transphobia (challenged), homophobia (challenged), mention of suicide
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  • Dan Avelle
    January 1, 1970
    I had some trepidation going in over the use of monster as metaphor. There's the perennial problem: are the marginalized going to be represented as a fundamentally dangerous or animalistic myth? And the answer, in this particular book, is no. While there's no dearth of tension or danger, the monsters aren't particularly more dangerous than anyone else. The "fantasy" part is anchored by the "urban". The supernatural elements of the story are drawn out into daily lives, coping mechanisms, historie I had some trepidation going in over the use of monster as metaphor. There's the perennial problem: are the marginalized going to be represented as a fundamentally dangerous or animalistic myth? And the answer, in this particular book, is no. While there's no dearth of tension or danger, the monsters aren't particularly more dangerous than anyone else. The "fantasy" part is anchored by the "urban". The supernatural elements of the story are drawn out into daily lives, coping mechanisms, histories of legislation and worker rights. While that kind of world-building may not appeal to everyone, it certainly worked to portray a web of queer culture, rather than just isolated queer characters.As for the writing, this book has a way of making you aware of your flesh even outside the POV of its undead main character. You're made to zoom in on the horrifying minutiae of being alive, only then to grow comfortable with it. Looking at the prose from a less granular level, events are abrupt at times, especially early on, which at its best serves a storybook vibe, and at worst breaks immersion.Being so grounded in a realistic, almost slice-of-life setting to begin with, serves the drama. The emotional peaks strike unexpectedly, and strike deep. This pacing is lost in the climax, wherein everything is so high-intensity for so long that it begins to have a numbing effect. Which is not to say the ending leaves no impression. In fact, the author has a skill for biting, poignant final lines within their chapters, one of which in the end of Aysel's first chapter made me think: "Oh, I need to stick with this."Speaking of Aysel, she is the most sharply rendered character in the book. Perhaps this is due to her being full of longing in a way that Z is not, but her blunt honesty, sensitivity, and desire to find a mirror of herself in the world made for companionable reading. Z was perhaps not as defined, and their grief felt under-explored by the end, but their relationship to their body provided some of the most harrowing moments and unforgettable images in the novel. Truth be told, I've been in Z's allegorical position, and it's difficult to project personality when you're focused on weathering your body & your peers all at once. As for the secondary characters, such as Mrs. Dunnigan, Mr. Weber, or Elaine, they seemed to me the most crucial part of the book. They keep the book out of the "you vs. the world" dynamic that a lot of YA falls into, while acting as an assurance that you should place your faith in your peers rather than putting yourself at the mercy of institutions. It might cost them, yes, but someone out there is willing to put their neck out for you if you're willing to put your faith in them.
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  • Crazy4Books
    January 1, 1970
    The two main characters voices were pretty similar. I liked both of them, but I feel like they didnt have much personality. There was this emotional disconnect for most of the book. The police brutality the main characters experience was the first time the story got a strong emotional reaction from me. Out of the two main characters I related to Aysel the most. I was totally the type of kid to leave the house when I was grounded and to punch any bullies in the face so I loved seeing her stand up The two main characters voices were pretty similar. I liked both of them, but I feel like they didnt have much personality. There was this emotional disconnect for most of the book. The police brutality the main characters experience was the first time the story got a strong emotional reaction from me. Out of the two main characters I related to Aysel the most. I was totally the type of kid to leave the house when I was grounded and to punch any bullies in the face so I loved seeing her stand up for Tommy and how they all became friends. I also really enjoyed the friendship that developped betweem Aysel and another werewolf Elaine. I also liked Aysel single muslim mother. The way she was willing to go above and beyond to help her daughter reminded me of my own single mother. I do still wish we knew what happened to Chad. I wanted to see more of his friendship with Z. I thought the 90s setting would make me more nostalgic since I grew up in that decade, but I didnt really get that. I would have loved more distinct qualities from that decade. I loved all the magic and paranormal beings. It wasnt the most detailed magic system, but it was pretty good for a contemporary fantasy. I liked how it was a core part of the school curriculum. The way it was incoporated into a society similar to our own felt realistic. There was lots of species oppression which led to police brutality and viewing anyone who was different as not deserving the same rights as everyone else. Thay discrimination really hit hard. I just really appreciated all the diverse themes that were included in this story. It includes so much great representation and I think its worth a read for that alone. It took me a minute to get into the flow of the writing, but once I did it was a quick read.I read mostly high fantasy so maybe thats why I found myself wanting more action. For most of the book the story focuses on the characters daily life so it wasnt all that exciting for me. It also seemed a little unrealistic they would go to school if they didnt have very long to live, but maybe thats just me. The plot didnt have any clear direction besides trying to avoid being persecuted by the town and the police so it was difficult to predict was direction it would go in. There were some twist and turns I didnt expect. It was a nice change to see the plot focus on a queer friendships instead of romance. I thought the ending was pretty confusing and left off kind of abruptly. Im assuming there will be a sequel so Ill keep an eye out for that. If a friendship story between a genderqueer zombie and lesbian werewolf sounds interesting to you maybe give this a try.*This book was received for an honest review
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  • T Luis Galvan
    January 1, 1970
    There’s a lot in this book, and much of it has already been said. It’s a beautiful rarity when story arc, time and place work so well together. I’d give it 4.5 stars.Set in 90s Salem, Oregon, this book does well in creating an alternate universe that does reflect the early 90s without actually attempting to recreate them. And the terminology! (Neutrois? Some of us used that term in the 90s! Where’d ze find it?) As a genderqueer trans person living in rural Oregon (near Salem), I can say that muc There’s a lot in this book, and much of it has already been said. It’s a beautiful rarity when story arc, time and place work so well together. I’d give it 4.5 stars.Set in 90s Salem, Oregon, this book does well in creating an alternate universe that does reflect the early 90s without actually attempting to recreate them. And the terminology! (Neutrois? Some of us used that term in the 90s! Where’d ze find it?) As a genderqueer trans person living in rural Oregon (near Salem), I can say that much of the implied discrimination is accurate in tone and nature. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, and xenophobia are alive and well in this part of the world, and this book reminds us that it can—and should be—challenged.But what’s beautiful (or disturbing, more accurately) are the parallels of history. Oregon’s werewolf bans echo Oregon’s very racist origins, founded as a predominately white supremacist state/territory. The author did hir homework, and it’s very apparent.Despite being an YA novel, I think it’s enjoyable for everyone, especially for we older folk who never saw ourselves in anywhere. It’s a nice change. It isn’t a perfect book, and it’s definitely a first novel. It’s hard to read in places, because the narrative gets choppy and abrupt, but that’s the exception, not the norm. There’s a lot of loose ends and I keep changing my mind about the ending.All that aside, it’s better than many first novels by now-established authors, and I look forward to hir’s new works.
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  • Andy Winder
    January 1, 1970
    I thought that the social commentary about LGBT discrimination via how these “monsters” are treated was a pretty unique concept. The queer representation was also very complex and well-written, especially the relationship between Z and Aysel. While there aren’t any major romances in this book, the friendship between this two is so authentic and uplifting for each other. Watching them learn to respect and genuinely care for each other through shared hardships is one of the best parts of Out of Sa I thought that the social commentary about LGBT discrimination via how these “monsters” are treated was a pretty unique concept. The queer representation was also very complex and well-written, especially the relationship between Z and Aysel. While there aren’t any major romances in this book, the friendship between this two is so authentic and uplifting for each other. Watching them learn to respect and genuinely care for each other through shared hardships is one of the best parts of Out of Salem. It makes the book feel so real for a story about zombies and werewolves.The one complaint I had was that the writing felt a bit stiff, and that made it hard for me to engage with the story as much as I wanted to. It was an innovative idea, but it didn’t always translate over well into words (in my opinion). But that being said, this seems to be the author’s debut novel and even without that taken into consideration, it was still an enjoyable read.This was a pretty unique concept for queer YA, especially within non-binary representation. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a spooky, gay read. Perfect book to get your Halloween fix any time of the year!
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  • W.L. Bolm
    January 1, 1970
    I'm giving this four stars because it's really good for what it is: a horror YA about teenagers dealing with magic and monsters. I think it does a really good job of updating the teen horror genre for a new generation; I wish I had had this to read instead of all of the Fear Street and Christopher Pike books I read as a teen. There's a lot of good representation, teenagers acting in realistic ways, and people building community. I also appreciated that there was a mix of supportive and unsupport I'm giving this four stars because it's really good for what it is: a horror YA about teenagers dealing with magic and monsters. I think it does a really good job of updating the teen horror genre for a new generation; I wish I had had this to read instead of all of the Fear Street and Christopher Pike books I read as a teen. There's a lot of good representation, teenagers acting in realistic ways, and people building community. I also appreciated that there was a mix of supportive and unsupportive adults, and a realistic buildup of creeping fascism. There was also some good worldbuilding; the world was a bit removed from ours, but the ways in which it differed were thought out, and the differences made sense for the world. As a nonbinary person, I appreciate an enby author dealing with the reality of coming to terms with nonbinariness in a world where it can be difficult.
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    Non-binary (transsexual is the term utilized in the book due to being set in the 1990s) zombies, lesbian witches, lesbian Turkish-American witches and a Jewish African-American teacher make Out of Salem, the debut novel by Non-binary author Hal Schrieve, not only intersectional in its representation but completely unique in the genre he chose to deliver it. The world Schrieve has built is not an apocalyptic zombie world. People and “monsters” have come to live together, so to speak. They walk an Non-binary (transsexual is the term utilized in the book due to being set in the 1990s) zombies, lesbian witches, lesbian Turkish-American witches and a Jewish African-American teacher make Out of Salem, the debut novel by Non-binary author Hal Schrieve, not only intersectional in its representation but completely unique in the genre he chose to deliver it. The world Schrieve has built is not an apocalyptic zombie world. People and “monsters” have come to live together, so to speak. They walk and live among “people.” Circa the late 1990s, there is a nationwide database and registration system in which these “monsters” are to comply, so they are kept under control. They are never truly free and are always fodder for persecution.Full Review at NovelLives.Com
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  • Robin Zeno
    January 1, 1970
    Out of Salem is a book that I would have personally needed and loved as a 14 year old, and that I think will be an important book for young teens who read it today. I say ‘important’ because not only does it discuss race, class, gender and the police state we live in, but also because kids who are affected by these facets will see themselves in it. Not to say that Out of Salem is purely an instructional text!! It’s fun, thrilling and imaginative. Schrieve’s particular take on urban fantasy makes Out of Salem is a book that I would have personally needed and loved as a 14 year old, and that I think will be an important book for young teens who read it today. I say ‘important’ because not only does it discuss race, class, gender and the police state we live in, but also because kids who are affected by these facets will see themselves in it. Not to say that Out of Salem is purely an instructional text!! It’s fun, thrilling and imaginative. Schrieve’s particular take on urban fantasy makes it feel real—I’ve been trying to describe it since I read the book and keep falling short but I think the best way to put it is that in Out of Salem’s world, the fantastical elements are fully integrated into society to the point of being included in public school curriculum. Taking that further, Schrieve includes a smart twist on the ‘fish out of water’ trope common to the genre by having hir characters already know about the existence of magic and monsters, but certain truths about them are hidden by everyday bigotries and government interference. The realistic texture here is enhanced then not by making these massive conspiracies that the protagonist can solve, but are those same bigotries reflected in and codified by government policies. I think this is why having the protagonists as members of both real life and fictional oppressed groups (a zombie and genderqueer, a werewolf, Turkish-American and a lesbian) works especially well when in other books I’ve read this sort of ‘dual oppression’ doesn’t quite work. All this to say, excellent worldbuilding that is delivered so naturally that it took me sitting down and puzzling out how it worked to see it. Impressive!To talk now about the characters: I am so fond of them all and could talk at length, but I want to try and be concise so I will discuss only Z and Aysel. Z’s undead state and simultaneous ‘dead’ affect is such a good way to convey how it feels to come out to trusted adults as trans and then be treated as if the self they projected onto you has ‘died’, and as a depiction of the depersonalization and depression this can trigger. That Z begins to feel and emote more again throughout the book as the preservation spell begins to work and as they find people they can be safe amongst is perfect. To speak of Z less as a device for conveying concepts though, I like them very much, their dry humor is so good and they have this progression from being nervous about their expanding world into a sort of grim, matter-of-fact bravery while still feeling and sounding like a kid. Also I enjoy how vividly their zombification (as with the shapeshifting) is described, and found their mobility issues relatable haha. Aysel is amazing. If I’d had her as a classmate I’d have hero-worshipped her and thought she was untouchably cool and if I’d read this book at 14 I also would have hero-worshipped her and thought she was untouchably cool. But she isn’t, she’s a lonely frustrated child who loves her mom and is struggling to exist in systems that actively hate her and I love that this book gives her places of refuge and acknowledges how brave she is. I really like that she’s allowed to get angry and her baby crush on Elaine is SO cute. Z and Aysel’s friendship is my favorite relationship in the book, and the scenes where they are hanging out might be the ones I like best!Schrieve does a fantastic job with hir characters, not only in writing natural interactions between young teens, but xie perfectly captures the feeling of being a vulnerable child who is rapidly learning that the systems in power do not want you or your loved ones to exist and that the only way for you to continue existing is to fight against those powers. This hits hard as an adult because it feels like a retroactive recognition and acknowledgment of these feelings. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to experience this book at the same age as the characters, but I can tell you that I had to put the book down a few times sheerly from thinking about it. It is powerful stuff. This is a book that starts off slowly, but I think that’s a strength. It broods, as the stakes rise it feels as if the protagonists are being stalked by an enormous, unflagging beast, and the adults that aid them are slowly taken out of the equation in ways that feel natural to me. The tension mounts until it is suffocating, and when the more explosive action sequences begin it feels like an inevitability. I agree that the conclusion is a little abrupt, but as a reader I am more compelled by the overall emotional effect of the plot, and I feel like the ending here works well as a relief from everything that came before it, and that Schrieve creates a sense of refuge. Because of the scale of the conflict there isn’t an ‘overthrow the corrupt government’ moment, and I honestly think that there shouldn’t be. Like in our world it isn’t that simple, and I think that by ending this way the novel expresses that revolution isn’t a single event, but a lifelong fight. I could go on further about how the children’s relationships with the mentor characters are nice responses to the usual usage of the trope or how delightful the werewolf sequences are or about the inclusion of fairy mythology but if you’ve made it this far you should go read it and then give it to a teen tbh!! I enjoyed Out of Salem immensely and am looking forward to anything else Schrieve writes in the future. This is an accomplished debut.
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  • Lauren Archer
    January 1, 1970
    Rounding up on this one. This started off with a lot of promise, but about a third in, it started to lose my interest. This does take on a lot of topics dealing with LGBTQ youth, but it unfortunately working this in with zombie and werewolves just did not totally work for me.
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