A fun, amusing tale about the beautiful torment of young hearts and hormones at play.

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The Improbable Rise of Paco Jones

A poor, persecuted eighth-grade boy falls for a popular girl in a posh school.

Carrillo (Americano Abroad, 2012, etc.) evokes the wonder and confusion of first love in his debut YA novel. The hero is the eponymous Paco Jones, a biracial kid with a good heart but few friends. He’s recently transferred from his old junior high to a preppy private school, and because he’s the most impoverished kid in attendance, he soon finds himself the least popular. It doesn’t help that he sports “a big nose, an unflattering birthmark on my neck, pigeon-toed feet and hairy arms,” all of them fodder for teasing. He’s jeered at during lunch, called Drug Dealer and Paco Taco, and otherwise hounded by “the rumor mill; the gossipers; the two-faced cheaters who’d do anything to get ahead or get popular.” So what hope is there for him when he falls for Naomi Fox, a popular girl already involved with a popular guy? By charm and by chance, Paco becomes friends with both Naomi and her boyfriend, Trent Oden. But that only leads to more problems when Trent drafts Paco to be his Cyrano de Bergerac, choosing gifts for Naomi and writing Trent’s love letters. Carrillo remembers the tortures of eighth grade well and re-creates them with competence. Any reader who’s been young and in love should feel a vicarious thrill when Naomi friends Paco on Facebook or casually shares her number. Readers should also fret for Paco as he gets his hopes up (“If I said the wrong thing it could be over….What could be over?!”). Eight-grade readers should nod in recognition, though a few may find the story arc predictable, at least until a clever twist appears toward the end. Students with different backgrounds from their classmates may especially identify with Paco, an outsider in a strange place, shy but wise, his own heart a secret. But all readers should find plenty here to make them smile.

A fun, amusing tale about the beautiful torment of young hearts and hormones at play.

Pub Date: March 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5194-9119-0

Page Count: 126

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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