A meet-cute encounter opens this novel that tackles mental health, inequality, parental failings, and young love.
Dominique lives in poverty with her white mother who owns a laundromat in Trenton, New Jersey; she barely knows her Ecuadorian father. Dom dreams of becoming a dancer, but financial difficulties force her to quit dance classes. Her African-American best friend is a fellow classic film buff who is questioning his sexuality and shares her dream of making it big in New York City. By contrast, Ben, a wealthy, white, Jewish violin virtuoso at an elite Manhattan conservatory, seemingly has it made—although he clearly struggles with mental health issues that his parents refuse to acknowledge. When the two fall for one another, Ben sees Dom as his savior and emotional anchor. Dom, on the other hand, initially lies about herself out of fear that the reality won’t be good enough for Ben. Tiresomely, the size and unruliness of Dom’s curly hair is emphasized and her urban vibe feels exoticized. The descriptions of her neighborhood emphasize crime over community bonds, and success is framed as getting away. However, Dom’s touchingly close relationship with her mother is a bright spot. The story unfolds at a satisfying clip, surprising readers who expect a formulaic ending.
Romance—and a lot more besides. (Fiction. 12-18)