In Mills’ (This Adventure Ends, 2016, etc.) latest, the beginning of senior year leads to new friendships and new love.
When Claudia accidentally overhears the breakup of Iris and Paige, Prospect-Landower School for Girls’ “cutest couple,” no-nonsense Iris threatens to ruin her. Instead, Claudia and Iris strike up an unlikely friendship after a failed group project forces them to participate in the school production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Iris is Chinese-American, the other primary characters ambiguously described, suggesting a white default. Claudia, who previously hadn’t bothered to make friends outside her childhood bestie, Zoe, begins to open herself to her peers. Chief among them is outgoing, kindhearted Gideon, a student at nearby all-male Danforth Prep. Even when Claudia lets herself believe that Gideon may actually be interested in her, a previous breakup makes her hesitant to pursue a new relationship (“It’s just easier to never start something than to have to see it end”). Unfortunately, the story follows the tired popular-boy-falls-for-unpopular-girl trope; otherwise, however, the characters are wonderfully fresh and honest. Claudia narrates in funny, conversational first-person present as the plot meanders toward opening night of Midsummer, allowing time for Claudia’s blooming relationships and self-confidence to develop.
The course of true love never did run smooth, but in the case of these two lovers, the journey is worth your while. (Fiction. 13-18)