A timely exploration of the line between idiosyncrasies and mental illness featuring two Australian teenagers.
Penny thinks she’s got her entire life sorted: She’s a standout on her high school’s swim and debate teams and is the school newspaper’s ace reporter. She owns her considerable ambition proudly and likes to keep things simple, gliding through life as smoothly and cleanly—without any messy peer relationships to gum up the works—as she does through the water. When she discovers a fellow student’s anonymous posts on a forum for love-shy men (so anxious about interactions with women that they avoid relationships altogether), Penny senses a hot story, pursuing it with a doggedness verging on obsession. Hyperdreamy Nick’s love-shyness is rooted in emotional abuse, phobias and deep-seated anxieties that nearly cripple him socially, and Penny determines to help him, Henry Higgins–style. This goes fairly well, but Nick is also unwittingly misogynistic, simultaneously idolizing and hating girls. When Penny finally calls him out on it, it’s a triumphant moment. Along the way, Nick’s behavior forces Penny to see that she is more isolated and friendship-craving than she’d like to admit. There is much to love about this book besides its plot; Penny’s relationships with other characters add both dimension and humor.
Readers will root for these appealing, realistically flawed characters to find their respective happy futures. (Fiction. 14-17)