Predictable hate-becomes-love romance is given new life by an inclusive cast.
After being rejected from nine art schools, Sephardic, bi, “edgy” Amalia needs to buckle down and make better grades senior year to get into a traditional college. (Yes, this makes absolutely no sense, but apparently in this version of reality, art college admissions happen before senior year.) She talks her way into AP psychology and ends up paired with uptight Ezra Holtz, fellow Jew and longtime nonfriend (they have endured synagogue, youth group, and parental attempts to make them friends). Of course, they choose to do a matchmaking experiment (on three refreshingly varied and diverse couples), and, of course, they fall into lust and then love. Sex-positive and frank without being graphic, with characters for whom religion is significant but not the point, this is an unexpectedly now entry in the sometimes-entrenched formula of romance, which makes the flaws—Amalia’s “manic pixie dream girl” past self never feels real despite many references to drinking and smoking pot, the college timeline will make teens in the know laugh, and Ezra is too perfect—forgivable. Many Jewish readers, in particular, will rejoice in seeing themselves and will recognize moments such as Amalia’s doing homework on the High Holy days while reflecting that “kids don’t have to do this crap on Christmas Eve.” One of Ezra’s two dads is trans.
Worth picking up despite the issues. (Romance. 14-adult)