Cotugno’s newest follows a seemingly mismatched duo over the first four years of their friendship.
White high schoolers Gabby and Ryan make an unlikely pair. Gabby’s intense and untreated social anxiety makes her relatively reclusive, sticking to her family’s weekly Friday night Monopoly games and spending time with her one close friend. Ryan is an extroverted hockey player, effortlessly popular with a string of short-term girlfriends. Their chance meeting in ninth grade at Gabby’s sister’s party leads them to become best friends almost instantly, much to everyone’s surprise. With some persistence, Ryan becomes one of the few people who can distract Gabby from her “panickers” and draw her out of her shell, while Gabby becomes one of the few people who’s deeply honest with Ryan and looks out for his health after multiple concussions. While both characters find themselves attracted to each other, missed signals and poor timing (including when both bisexual Gabby and straight Ryan have girlfriends at the same time) complicate the potential for a romantic relationship. Their prioritization of their interpersonal relationship, person-to-person and regardless of romance, is endearing and refreshing. The third-person narration, which alternates between Ryan and Gabby, at times feels distant, but the nonlinear narrative structure (divided into 10 interconnected moments in their relationship and beginning with their consummation after graduation) makes a compelling balance.
Whether or not Gabby and Ryan make it into readers’ own top tens, readers will root for them. (Fiction. 14-17)