There are stories about the lake, about a world that exists beneath it, about ghosts and odd happenings and mysteries that can’t be solved. No one believes them anymore, of course—the old sign detailing the lakelore is barely legible, and the old tales have become things to laugh at, not to believe. Only Bastián Silvano can find the world under the lake anymore, find the place where water lifts from the surface like butterfly’s wings and reveals a path to the depths below. And Lore Garcia is the only one they’ve ever managed to show it to, though they met so briefly they never even learned each other’s names.
It's been years since they met for the first time—time enough for Bastián to begin sending their worst moments beneath the lake’s surface in paper-mâché alebrijes, and for Lore to do something so terrible they have to leave their old town—even if that doesn’t keep away the memories intent on reminding Lore of all their worst mistakes. But when Lore moves into Bastián’s town and lakelore slips out from beneath the surface of the lake, they must each trust each other with the parts of themselves they’ve worked the hardest to hide.
Having written hundreds of reviews, I have a running shortlist of ones that were nearly impossible to describe—books like Raybearer and Daughter of Smoke and Bone, which I absolutely love but struggle to find words to summarize the plots of. Lakelore surpasses all of them. Encapsulating Anna-Marie McLemore’s gorgeous magical realism at its finest, Lakelore is the story of two nonbinary teens navigating the dangerous, complicated, multifaceted world of their own minds and histories, all while coming to terms with what it means to love yourself. At once ethereal and impossibly grounded in reality, there is so much of this story nearly impossible to put into words—and yet it’s so utterly amazing that I feel like I do it a disservice by not attempting to.
Lakelore is, in one word, stunning. McLemore (who is also the author of some of my other absolute favorite books, such as Blanca and Roja, Wild Beauty, and When the Moon Was Ours) weaves realism and magic together so smoothly with their beautiful writing that the two flow into one another so naturally they feel inseparable; the world they draw with relatively straightforward language is so evocative and gorgeous that I couldn’t help but be absorbed by it. Always thoughtful, reflective, and intentional, the many threads of Lakelore became something incredibly deep beneath McLemore’s deft pen. This book made me feel utterly heard to a degree few others ever have through the power and authenticity of its protagonists’ struggles, and the beauty of their evolving awarenesses of themselves.
Far too many books become ‘single-issue’; Lore and Bastián, instead, lie at the intersection of many identities—neurodivergence, race, gender—and yet this story never becomes ‘about’ any one of these. Instead, it focuses on the two people behind them, whose nuanced and complex narratives are built far more around who they are, their experiences, and how the world has treated them because of their identities—and, particularly, how they intersect—than simply using those identities as checked-off diversity boxes, creating a pair of protagonists who are refreshingly, beautifully, and sometimes devastatingly real. I can’t think of another book starring two characters who are as complex and human as these two, or who I love quite this much. Deft, magical, and truly incredible, I highly recommend Lakelore to readers ages twelve and up, particularly those who love magical realism and queer, diverse fantasy.