A MATTER OF HEART

An enjoyable read even for couch potatoes.

It all comes down to heart for one athlete.

Abby is on top of the world. She routinely blows her competition out of the pool and is on the verge of qualifying for the Olympic trials at 16, thus fulfilling her father's thwarted dreams for himself. She's got her loyal best friend, Jen, and her handsome, easygoing boyfriend, Connor, both fellow swimmers. The only problem is Alec, whose questions about Connor's performance in the pool also extend to Abby. But then Abby gets dizzy and faints after a race. A doctor's visit reveals she has hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that is often a cause of unexpected death in teen athletes. It's treatable with beta blockers—but Abby can't swim fast on the pills. And without the pills, she risks death every time she's in the pool. Abby makes all the expected mistakes as she comes to grips with her diagnosis, including offering sex to a no-longer-interested Connor. It will take time, support and love for Abby to figure out who she is without swimming. Dominy writes Abby’s narration in the first person, giving readers a poolside view to her process; it’s not flashy, but it works. All in all, this is a solid look at an elite athlete who gets benched: Only the juicing subplot underperforms, although it helps to define character motivations.

An enjoyable read even for couch potatoes. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: May 12, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-74443-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

THE FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN TEENAGER

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

OUT OF CHARACTER

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod.

Can a 17-year-old with her first girlfriend prevent real-life folks from discovering her online fandoms?

Cass is proudly queer, happily fat, and extremely secretive about being a fan who role-plays on Discord. Back in middle school, she had what she calls a gaming addiction, playing “The Sims” so much her parents had to take the game away. Now, turning to her role-play friends to cope with her fighting parents, she worries that people will judge her for her fannishness and online life. To be fair, her grades are suffering. And sure, maybe she’s missed a college application deadline. Also, her mom has suddenly left Minneapolis and moved to Maine to be with a man she met online. But on the other hand, Cass is finally dating her amazingly cute longtime crush, Taylor. Pansexual Taylor is a gamer, a little bit punk, White like Cass, and so, so great—but she still can’t help comparing her to Rowan, Cass’ online best friend and role-playing ship partner. But Rowan doesn’t want to be a dirty little secret and doesn’t see why Cass can’t be honest about this part of her life. The inevitable train wreck of her lies looms on the horizon for months in an overlong morality play building to the climax that includes tidy resolutions to all the character arcs that are quite heartwarming but, in the case of Cass’ estranged mother, narratively unearned.

Despite the well-meaning warmth, a wearying plod. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-324332-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Quill Tree Books/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

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