Shelf Awareness: Darcie Little Badger’s creative and meticulously plotted YA debut, Elatsoe, is a supernatural murder mystery that takes place in a United States that has Fairy Ring Transportation Centers, endless fields of scarecrows with human eyes and a rich history of Lipan Apache ghost whisperers.
When Elatsoe’s ghost dog, Kirby, throws a fit, she knows something is very wrong. Turns out, Ellie’s cousin Trevor was in a fatal car accident. That night Ellie, whose “family secret” is the knowledge of how to bring back the dead, dreams of Trevor. “A man named Abe Allerton murdered me,” he tells Ellie. “Don’t let Abe hurt my family.” Ellie’s mother and father believe that Ellie is as powerful as her Six-Great-Grandmother who traveled Lipan Apache territory saving her people from undead evils, dangerous creatures and deadly settlers. Knowing the strength of his daughter’s gift, Ellie’s father agrees to help her investigate. With the assistance of her parents and her good friend and Lord Oberon descendant, Jay, Ellie takes a trip across Texas to find Abe Allerton and bring him to justice.
Little Badger excellently balances humor and horror in this inventive YA mystery/alternate history/fantasy. Ellie is a very likable protagonist whose Lipan heritage and ethnicity is not just twined with the story, but is the story: her gift comes from Six-Great; she’s vocal about the contemporary mistreatment of Indigenous people; and she has a pretty ingenious way of dispelling vampires. Each chapter begins with graceful, almost ethereal black-and-white illustrations by And the Ocean Was Our Sky artist Rovina Cai, adding to the evanescent vibe of the book, a Lipan Apache Sookie Stackhouse for the teen set. One hopes Ellie—and the wonderfully developed world in which she lives—will appear in many more books to come.