Two teens maneuver painful routes through profound grief as well as the complex quagmire of severe mental illness.
Seventeen-year-old biracial (Latinx and white), bristly Naima is spending the summer with her grandparents in Indiana. She never forgave her father for leaving on multiple military tours, but now that he’s given his life in service of his country, she’s angrier than ever. Fifteen-year-old sweet-tempered, Latinx Dew lives next door with his adoptive parents following his parents’ deaths. He prefers communicating via tape recorder and is convinced that he and Naima can help each other. They’re both adrift in their devastating new realities. The teens’ mental illnesses—Dew’s social anxiety; Naima’s OCD, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and PTSD—are conveyed in a realistic and poignant manner. Naima is fat and pansexual while Dew has severe food allergies, and the protagonists’ multilayered, intersectional identities make them all the more believable. Dew’s fixation on and out-loud narration of his observations of Naima are intrusive and border on inappropriate, and others join Naima in deeming such behavior disrespectful while supporting her in setting boundaries. The teens benefit from an unflagging support system, which also provides alternate reflections for navigating grief. The novel is ultimately hopeful, and readers will connect with the messy, visceral lives simmering on the page.
Profoundly emotional and truthful. (author’s note) (Fiction. 14-adult)