The stakes of a game of dares grow uncomfortably high for four teens.
The Waterside Café is as good a workplace as it is a fine dining experience. The clientele is classy, and the post-work game of Tips run by sleazy (but initially tolerable) manager Rico provides the young staff with biweekly opportunities to make extra cash on the side by fulfilling outrageous dares. The four protagonists of Kennedy’s debut—Isa, Xavi, Peter, and Finn—each have something to hide, and all four try to use Tips’ promises of financial independence and social capital to achieve their goals. Isa wants to leave her beauty-queen past behind, Xavi wants to attend fashion-design school in New York, Peter wants to become a chef (and win his stepsister Xavi’s heart), and Finn just wants to have fun. As the intensity of the summer’s dares increases, the four teens face ever steeper consequences for their choices, including a pregnancy scare, potential arrest for teen prostitution, and being framed as a burglar. An impressively efficient series of coincidences and schemes must be assembled in order to keep the stakes for these likable kids from becoming depressingly real.
Featuring short, punchy chapters, engagingly flawed characters, and a plot that churns ever forward, this frothy confection may not nourish, but it will certainly delight. (Fiction. 15-17)