Cerulean Gene is free everywhere except school, where they’re known for repeatedly challenging authority. Raised in a free-spirited home by two loving parents who encourage Cerulean to be their full self, they’ve got big dreams of moving cross-country to live off the grid with their friends after graduation. But a fight with a teacher spirals out of control, and Cerulean impulsively drops out to avoid the punishment they fear is coming. Why wait for graduation to leave an oppressive capitalist system and live their dreams?
Cerulean is truly brilliant, but their sheltered upbringing hasn’t prepared them for the consequences of their choice — especially not when it’s compounded by a family emergency that puts a parent out of work. Suddenly the money they’d been stacking with their friends is a resource that the family needs to stay afloat.
Salt the Water is a book about dreaming in a world that has other plans for your time, your youth, and your future. It asks, what does it look like when a bunch of queer Black kids are allowed to dream? And what does it look like for them to confront the present circumstances of the people they love while still pursuing a wildly different future of their own?
Candice Iloh is a first-generation Nigerian American writer whose books center home. They are from the Midwest by way of Washington, DC, and Brooklyn, New York. They are a proud alumna of the Rhode Island Writers Colony, and their work has earned fellowships from Lambda Literary, VONA, and Kimbilio Fiction and a residency with Hi-ARTS, where they debuted their first one-person show in 2018. Candice became a 2020 National Book Award Finalist and, in 2021, a Printz Award Honoree for their debut novel, Every Body Looking. Salt the Water is their third novel.
★"Daring, beautiful, and necessary."—Kirkus
, starred review
★“Iloh delivers another electric novel in verse. … A necessary reminder to young adults that there’s no shame in standing up for yourself.”—Booklist, starred review
"Offers myriad avenues for rumination on personal autonomy and self-expression."—Publishers Weekly
"There are many things Iloh accomplishes in Salt The Water
, but the most impressive, and arguably the most important, is that this unflinching portrayal of the necessary irreverence of Black teenagers on a complicated quest for self-actualization is one of the best I've seen in a long time."—Jason Reynolds, New York Times
bestselling author of Long Way Down
"Candice Iloh has painted a deeply moving portrait of Cerulean, a passionate and bright teen whose abrasive school life is in direct contrast to their loving and tender home life in the Bronx. Urban gardens serve as a poignant yet hopeful metaphor for the nurturing and care that young people need to navigate tumultuous cityscapes, public schools, and the fragile fault lines in their lives and in the world." —Ibi Zoboi, National Book Award Finalist and New York Times
bestselling coauthor of Punching the Air
“Candice Iloh’s Salt the Water
invites the radical work of envisioning freedom. I learned so much from seventeen-year-old Cerulean: to do more than hope for and dream of freedom, but to plan for it. To bury my hands in the soil, in the vibrant verse of this story. To go there.”— Safia Elhillo, award winning author of Home Is Not a Country
and Girls that Never Die