A highly recommended work that’s thoughtful, funny, wise, and tender.

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SICK KIDS IN LOVE

Two chronically ill teens navigate the joys and pitfalls of a relationship in this YA contemporary romance.

Of all the places where 16-year-old Isabel Garfinkel could meet a cute boy, the Ambulatory Medical Unit at Linefield and West Memorial Hospital in the Queens borough of New York City, wouldn’t seem the most likely. It’s her second time in the “drip room,” as it’s called, where she gets monthly infusions to treat the rheumatoid arthritis that she’s had for 11 years. This time, though, she can’t help staring at a new patient there—a boy her age named Sasha Sverdlov-Deckler. She likes his quirky, appealing looks and wry sense of humor, and they bond over the fact that they’re both Jewish. Sasha has a rare genetic disorder called Gaucher disease, which isn’t fatal, in his case, but causes severe anemia, weak bones, and other problems. Although Isabel has several close and well-meaning friends, she doesn’t have anyone who really understands what it’s like “to deal with the everyday slog of being sick.” She and Sasha hit it off, but she’s emotionally guarded and dislikes risks, and as a result, she doesn’t date. Sasha is patient and sweet, and their romance grows; amid a few arguments and setbacks, they forge a bond that gets them through their problems. As the advice columnist for her high school paper, Isabel asks questions and gathers others’ responses; by the end of the novel, she’s comfortable with not having all the answers. Moskowitz (Salt, 2018, etc.) does a splendid job of showing what the world looks like to the chronically but invisibly ill. For example, Isabel is often tired and aching, and she fears the judgment of others; she notes that even her physician father would question her getting a cab to go 15 blocks, a walkable distance for many, including people who are old or pregnant and “people with arthritis who are just better than me.” Overall, the excellent character development lends depth and sweetness to the romance. Isabel’s relationship with Sasha helps her fight self-doubt and stand up for herself with laudable vigor, yet the novel never feels didactic.

A highly recommended work that’s thoughtful, funny, wise, and tender.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-732-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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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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