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Out of Salem

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  439 ratings  ·  115 reviews
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 elde ...more
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published March 5th 2019 by Triangle Square
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Hal Schrieve Hi Flowers! I would say that the tone of Out of Salem is fairly dark but not necessarily spooky. The humor tends to be gritty/sarcastic. The mystery d…moreHi Flowers! I would say that the tone of Out of Salem is fairly dark but not necessarily spooky. The humor tends to be gritty/sarcastic. The mystery doesn't center around discovering monsters so much as figuring out whether the main characters will be able to survive the oppressive systems they are growing up under. A lot of this book is about being an alienated monster teenager and being afraid that the state/police will act to make your life more difficult.

My hope is that the book is not *only* grueling to read and is also rewarding, because of how the characters form strong connections with one another and survive via friendships and solidarity, but I don't think it could be described as "light".

Some trigger warnings: there is body horror as Z's body starts disintegrating, family abuse (by Uncle Hugh in the first chapter), suicidal ideation (by Z the zombie), police violence toward children and marginalized groups, fatphobic and homophobic bullying, and discussion of medical abuse of werewolf+shapeshifter children.(less)

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4.5 stars


representation: nonbinary main, Muslim lesbian main, several LGBTQAI+ and POC side characters

content 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
This book is difficult for me to review. On the one hand, I am simply in awe of its presence. The mere fact that it exists practically has me falling on my knees in gratitude. A genderqueer main character? Written by a nonbinary author? In an urban fantasy novel? This is the queer genre fiction of my dreams.

And yet… This turned me off in so many ways. I’ll start with the worldbuilding. At the start, I thought that the existence of magical creatures was hidden from the public. Then it seemed tha
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
God, this book. It started out SO STRONG and did not let up AT ALL until it was finished. It was just. A tour-de-force. I want to shake the author and go "YOU DID THIS!! HOW DID YOU DO THIS??"

Z's deadpan (heh heh) point of view and narration style worked perfectly for me. They're exactly the kind of narrator I need when horrible events are being described, because the plain and simple statements of 'what is' make the painful into factual and give a sense that it's another thing to take in stride
Jan 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Schrieve's debut novel uses literal monstrosity as a metaphor for queerness to great effect. Z, a nonbinary teen, dies in the same car crash that kills the rest of their family, then wakes up undead. They are now legally a non-person, needing an adult guardian to sign on to the responsibility to incinerate their body when they begin to decompose and lose their sense of self. That is a terrifying eventuality, but in Z's immediate future is another problem: their only living relative hates monster ...more
I had really high hopes for this book, it sounded sooo cool! Genderqueer zombie, fat lesbian werewolf, set in the 90s, sign me the fuck up. The reality was a bit of a let down for me, though.

There were parts of this I really enjoyed, but also parts I... didn't. Mostly I thought this book really dragged at times - it was on the long side for a YA fantasy and that was just unnecessary.

I'm also hesitant to recommend the trans rep in this book, because it was really messy. With reason, because it r
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
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
ivy francis
Jan 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: came-soon-18-20

Overall, Out of Salem was an enjoyable and somewhat thought-provoking urban fantasy. The characters outshone everything else, as Aysel and Z were instantly likable and interesting with little introduction needed. Rating: four lesbian selkie grandmas/five

For fans of: These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling, The Past and Other Things That Should Stay Buried by Shaun David Hutchinson, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Favorite quotes:
- “There must be a great mystical beauty in being out at sea and
Kaethe Douglas
I read this as part of Halloween Bingo, so the fact that this book could reasonably be applied to about half the squares is woth mentioning. This is the first book I've read which used the singular nongendered they/their as pronouns, which slowed me down a bit at the beginning. But it worked, and never felt gimmicky. Z. was a plausible fourteen year old zombie who's entire family died in an auto accident: only Z reanimated.

There's werewolves and high school bullying and good teachers and bad tea
Jun 16, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: dnf
This was actually a DNF for me which hurts me to say because I'm so into everything this book is trying to do. The world, the inclusiveness, the diversity...all of it was awesome. The writing style is what made me tap out. The prose is choppy and repetitive. The dialogue is incredibly awkward and unnatural sounding. Both things affected characterization, in my opinion (it was hard to see any of the characters as actual people). ...more
Michael Lee
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is so good and important for so many reasons that I can't put into words right now because I'm too overwhelmed with my feelings, but I will soon! Loved it!!!!
Update about 6 hours later.

OK, I have put my thoughts together and want to review this book because I feel so strongly about it. But before I do I want to include a disclaimer: I am an academic and some of my thoughts on this book are going to get academic-y and so, if that's not everyone's thing I completely
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lgbtq
(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
Briar Page
Apr 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
My review in video format you can find here --> Witchy Reviews: OUT OF SALEM by HAL SCHRIEVE aka diversity gem ...more
Very smart, heartwarming tale of a nonbinary fourteen-year-old dealing with the deaths of their family members and their startling new status as undead -- and their friend, a fat Muslim lesbian werewolf -- AND so many other kinds of magical beings but to reveal would be to spoil. I loved how the oppression of magic in this world has allegorical parallels to the oppression of queerness while not being a 1:1 correspondence -- because queerness and transness also exist in this world, as do homo- an ...more
Aug 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Have you (or a middle grade/YA reader you know) ever:

- felt lonely
- needed to learn more about societal structures of power and oppression
- met and followed around cool older kids who fascinated you
- had to confront the fact that adults who are supposed to protect you have failed you
- felt fear due to hate-fueled political movements you cannot control
- felt like a monster
- been proud to care for and be cared for by other monsters
- been sustained by the care of friends who are willing to fight
L.C. Laurent
May 15, 2020 rated it liked it
When I first picked up this book and read what it was about, I was intrigued at the idea that someone was having a genderqueer character front and center as a protagonist. Mix in the magical world aspect, and a werewolf in hiding, and I was absolutely sold. I really wanted to adore this book, it seemed like all the pieces were there, but I never fully got connected to the characters, the story, or even the world it’s all set in.

While I don’t have anything particularly overwhelmingly positive to
Booky Nooky
Apr 11, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Izzy Levy
Aug 25, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2020
i loved this book! i have a lot of thoughts and feelings and a bunch of them have probably already been said so i'll keep this brief but! schrieve's protagonists and their friends are extremely lovable; "queer monster found family" is always an amazing premise and schrieve does it so well. xie also consciously avoids one of the most frequent pitfalls of socially-conscious fantasy (not that i read enough of it to make this claim with authority): the oppression of monsters as allegory for real lif ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Elizabeth Mellen
Sep 10, 2019 rated it liked it
This was basically two stars for my enjoyment and one because I want queer characters, especially in things that aren’t contemporaries. I saw this cover at the library on the new shelf and was instantly intrigued, and then when I heard queer + zombies + werewolves + enchanters, I was sold. I got home, checked goodreads and was extra excited when I saw how many people enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t one of them.

My first, and biggest, issue was that it was fantastical revisionist history with
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I had the chance to read this book a while before it was actually published and I really really loved it. I love how Schrieve builds the characters and the setting.
I felt like while it's a fantasy novel, it had a lot of everyday reality built into the setting, such as the school and the family matters Z goes through, and during all of this, the writing was balanced and realistic enough to keep readers engaged regardless of what they're looking for, and all the fantasy and the supernatural was e
May 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was really good. A big book but a fast read, with good characters and worldbuilding that built upon itself well. Set in the 90s in a world where magic and monsters exist (as second class citizens), but reads and feels very real & modern. Schrieve is excellent at writing scenes of chaos and disorientation from the perspectives of the people right in the midst of them, and the reader will get caught up in the action, feeling like they are there. Good queer & trans & multicultural rep without ...more
Jun 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow wow WOW!!! I don't even know where to begin in my praises for this book!!! For starters, this is the only book I've ever come across with an character that specifically identifies as Genderqueer, and does it Right!!! Another thing is that none of the main characters get involved in a romance, and I can't tell you all how Wonderfully refreshing it is to read a YA novel that doesn't have romance secondary plot!!! This is honestly the best book I've read this year so far, and will probably rema ...more
Mar 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 31, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: queer
Such a fun and elaborate book! I might come back and add some thoughts but just know its super queer, has supernatural creatures, and friendship! What more could you need!? Also, it's sort of major but the main character uses They/Them pronouns and I think it might be the first (or second) YA book I read where that has been the case! Go check it out! ...more
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
I was surprised at how much I liked this book as I generally stay as far away as possible from zombie and werewolf (and faery and sorcerers and selkies and shapeshifters) except for when I feel obligated to read the book. I liked the characters and the surprise twist and turns (a few were maybe a bit coincidental but this isn't realistic fiction). Definitely one of the most original ides--a trans zombie and a werewolf lesbian--and it goes on from there. ...more
Hannah Chapman
I loved it how there were two different sides, protecting were-wolves and then the side against them I just loved this book it was amazing and I deffinitly recommend it.
Mar 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Note: This review is of the ARC

A 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
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