500 WORDS OR LESS by Juleah del Rosario


Age Range: 14 - 18
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A high school senior tries to move past her betrayal of her boyfriend and the disappearance of her mother.

Branded a whore after an alcohol-fueled hookup with her boyfriend’s best friend and desperate to “...for a moment / be someone / other than / that girl,” Nic Chen agrees to write the college essays of classmates at her competitive high school. She understands the power of the spare, stripped-down vignette, and in learning and writing the stories of the valedictorian, the artist, the quarterback, and the mean girl, Nic starts to find her own story too. There’s a lot going on here, and the boyfriend comes and goes in such fleeting moments that it’s hard to empathize with Nic’s stated sense of loss. Debut author del Rosario only begins to unpack the complexity of Nic’s relationships with her runaway white mother and her emotionally distant Chinese father and her identity as their biracial daughter in a largely wealthy, largely white Seattle-area community. Add in an extensive cast of classmates and a few loyal friends whose stories aren’t told, and the impact of the whole is perhaps less than the sum of its parts. Still, the author, like Nic, knows the weight of “emotionally raw” experiences, and, in poignant verse, the moments of anguish, loneliness, and hope ring true.

As one of the characters describes Nic: beautiful but not perfect. (Novel in verse. 14-18)

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 2018
ISBN: 978-1-5344-1044-2
Page count: 384pp
Publisher: Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 2018


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