Love and second chances are the themes of this engrossing young adult novel.
After being cheated on by his girlfriend, Florence, and watching his mother struggle to accept his father’s death, Nathan is not sure that he believes in love anymore. When Oliver, Nate’s former best friend, moves back to Seattle and enrolls in his high school, the stage may finally be set for Nate to heal his broken heart. In their debut young adult novel, Callender (Hurricane Child, 2018) assembles a delightful cast of teenage characters who feel so authentic that readers will be scanning their school cafeterias for them. The author has a talent for capturing the earnest-yet-awkward cadence of teenspeak, and they explore the humor and pathos of adolescent relationships in a way that demonstrates a deep respect for the teen audience. While the central love pair is nicely rendered, starting with their meet-cute, Nate’s relationships with his mother and with Flo—for whom he still holds a torch—are equally complex. His guilt over his inability to comfort his mom and the awkwardness both he and Flo feel about forging a solid friendship despite their rocky past are eminently relatable. Best of all, Nate, Flo, and Ollie’s sexualities are fluid and a nonissue within their familial and social circles. Nate is brown-skinned, Oliver is Latinx, and Florence is biracial (black and Taiwanese).
A delightful testimony to the enduring power of love. (Fiction. 14-18)