Two teens struggling with mental illness fall in love, and it doesn’t end well.
Every day is a challenge for Stella Canavas—likely the same Stella from Yu’s debut novel, Four Weeks, Five People (2017)—who lives with depression. Her resolutions for junior year include hanging out with her best friends, escaping her parents’ arguments, listening to her therapist, and accepting people more. On the first day of classes, Stella is captivated by senior Kevin Miller, who is passionate about philosophy, longs to attend Columbia University, and also lives with depression. Stella feels as though she’s found someone who understands her, and after some serious discussion, they begin dating. Everything seems so perfect, but perfect often turns to tears and recriminations in an instant. As their relationship progresses, Stella’s grades slip, she distances herself from her friends, and she skips therapy sessions. The smallest disagreements between Stella and Kevin escalate to shouting matches that leave Stella feeling too exhausted and broken to pick up the pieces. Stella recounts their relationship in a nonlinear style, beginning her story with the end (their last fight) and scattering memories throughout. Yu genuinely portrays how the initial magic of a new relationship can spiral into something toxic and have a profound impact on one’s mental health. Characters are assumed white except for Stella’s friend Lin, who is Chinese-American.
A poignant reminder that love is not always enough. (Fiction. 14-18)