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Beautifully profound.

Fourteen-year-old Almudena reconnects with her estranged Guatemalan father during a revelatory summer.

When her white mom gets the opportunity to tour as the star of an international dance show, Almudena must spend the summer in the city with Xavier, the father she’s never met. Further exacerbating her woes, Almudena doesn’t speak Spanish, and Xavier speaks very little English. Xavier nonetheless expects her to help him renovate a dilapidated brownstone and turn it into housing for folks in the community who need an affordable rental. As father and daughter rehabilitate the house, floor by floor (cue Almudena: “Ugh. That all sounds like a metaphor, doesn’t it?”), she learns more about her father, including his beliefs, challenges, and life. Navigating the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood as an outsider, Almudena meets Latine people who inadvertently or purposefully question her Latine status. Almudena slowly discovers how she fits into her new community and pieces together a makeshift familia that’s imperfect but feels right. This coming-of-age tale chimes with discreet moments of humor and lots of heart, all centered around questions of heritage, identity, compassion, and acceptance and exemplified by the scrappy, vivid artwork, which wonderfully captures Almudena’s inner turmoil. Almudena’s blossoming relationship with her father ends on a cheerful note, and her moments of rapport with her summertime neighbors and their stories are frequent highlights that touch upon topics such as prejudice against brown folks and queerness in the Latine community.

Beautifully profound. (Graphic fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780358394754

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Versify/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A smart, timely outing.

Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).

Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class.

A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233571-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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