There are plenty of ways that Zenobia July is different from her fellow students when she starts Monarch Middle School. Her skills at tech, for example, developed over long days sitting at home when her father wouldn’t let her leave the house. The fact that she’s not living with her parents but with her two eccentric aunts. Or that although Zen was born a boy, in her new home in Maine, she’s been able to transition publicly to the girl she’s always been inside. Despite all the hardships she’s faced, though, Zen finds new challenges in middle school—girls who make fun of her, a boy who despises her for her skill at technology, and the constant fear that someone will learn she’s transgender. The only comforts lie in Arli, a self-proclaimed word geek, and the familiar riddles of Cyberlandium.
Then the school website is hacked, and it changes everything. Because although Zen knows she can find who did it, she’s also aware that success may not make her popular with her classmates. And as she delves deeper into the mystery, it makes her question the place she’s started to find for herself at Monarch Middle School.
It’s a multilayered puzzle which requires both cyber skills and determination. And Zenobia July may be the only one who can stop it before the hacker strikes again.
Zenobia July is an amazing book, one I’m so glad I’ve read. It’s the tale of a transgender girl figuring out who she is and navigating an unfamiliar world, but it’s also a cyber mystery with a strong friendship storyline. Lisa Bunker creates a many-layered, real story with an interesting, engaging plot. Her characters were well-drawn and unique, and every part of the story felt natural and smooth. To readers ages ten and up who like mysteries or books with diverse protagonists, I highly recommend Zenobia July.