In Valley native Hannah Lillith Assadi’s coming-of-age novel Sonora (Soho Press, $16), Ahlam is the daughter of a Palestinian refugee and an Israeli woman who grows up in the Phoenix suburbs. Ahlam becomes mesmerized by Laura, a girl at school who’s as mysterious as the Superstition Mountains. The girls are haunted by the unexplained deaths of classmates, mysterious lights in the night sky and hypnotizing experiments with drugs and sex, so they escape to New York City, where new problems unfold. Assadi uses her words like a painter, coloring the beauty of the desert with gorgeous descriptions of saguaros, palo verdes and bougainvillea. This does little to help the often floundering plot, but it will make even jaded Arizona natives stop to reconsider the aesthetic delights of cacti and desert soil.
— Nikole Tower