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Torch

Three teens struggle to carve out futures for themselves under a totalitarian regime.

Czechoslovakia, 1969

Seventeen-year-old Pavol has watched his country’s freedoms disappear in the wake of the Soviet Union’s invasion. He’s seen his own dreams disappear too. In a desperate, fatal act of protest against the oppressive new government, he sets himself on fire in public, hoping to motivate others to fight for change.

Instead, Pavol’s death launches a government investigation into three of his closest friends. Štěpán finds his Olympic hockey ambitions jeopardized and must conceal his sexual orientation from authorities who could use it against him. Tomáš has already been accused of “antisocial” behavior because he struggles to follow the unwritten rules of everyday interactions, and now he must work even harder to meet the expectations of his father, the regional leader of the communist party. And aspiring film director Lída, Pavol’s girlfriend, is pregnant with his child, which brands her a traitor by association and upends all her plans.

With their futures hanging in the balance, all three must decide whether to keep struggling to survive in the country Pavol died hoping to save … or risk a perilous escape to the other side.

“Readers will be on the edges of their seats with fear as they follow the social, psychological, and physical fallout for this trio as they deal with the consequences of Pavol’s actions while fighting for their own brief moments of happiness and hope. The story presents an unflinching look at the toll of authoritarianism; it’s a tale that will inspire readers to examine modern politics and the need for people to stand up for personal rights before human torches are once again lit. Equally terrifying and captivating.” — Kirkus (starred review)

“With meticulous attention to detail Miller-Lachmann recreates a terrifying and excruciating chapter in our shared human history. A work of historical fiction about an almost forgotten time that is frighteningly relevant in today’s world.” — Padma Venkatraman, author of The Bridge Home and Born Behind Bars

“Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s Torch manages to accomplish the nearly impossible—a novel that is not only intensively researched and informative but also riveting and deeply heartfelt. Readers will learn and care in equal measure.” — Cynthia Levinson, author of The Youngest Marcher; co-author of Fault Lines in the Constitution

Torch immerses readers in the lives of a group of teenagers in Czechoslovakia after the 1968 Soviet invasion. Rather than live without freedom, one of them decides to protest the regime’s oppression by setting himself on fire — and as a consequence, the dreams of his best friends go up in flames, too. I was immediately hooked and couldn’t put this down. Incredibly relevant for today’s teens, especially with the current surge of authoritarianism around the globe.” — Kip Wilson, author of White Rose and The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin

“A magnificently rendered novel that feels especially timely, Torch packs an emotional punch with its intriguing characters and compelling setting. …an outstanding work of historical fiction that achieves the unique distinction of being both sensitively drawn and impeccably researched. I was swept away.” — Carly Heath, author of The Reckless Kind

Torch. Carolrhoda Lab, 2022. 328 pp. ISBN 978-1-7284-1568-0, $19.99 (hc). E-book and audiobook also available.

A Junior Library Guild Gold Standard Selection!

Forthcoming November 1, 2022