A perfect, glowing ending to a stellar high school career veers off course when debate-team captain Higgs Boson flunks girlfriend Roo’s easy question: If she needed a kidney, would he give her one?
Yee turns her clever, insightful humor on one wounded family: There’s the dentist dad, retired NASA scientist mom, Higgs, named after “the God particle, the missing link, the answer to all the questions of the universe”—and who could forget little sister Charlie? Well, pretty much everyone; tragically dead older brother Jeffrey is still eerily center stage despite Charlie’s straight-A grades and Higgs Boson’s acceptance to Harvard, the path Jeffrey was supposed to tread. (Next step? Dental school.) But while Higgs Boson may be the answer, he doesn’t have the important-to-teens answer: “Roo’s kidneys are fine and I’m not into hypotheticals” leads to an epic breakup, the loss of his best friend, troubles at school and home, and a chance encounter with an intriguing homeless girl wise enough to joke about his name. She forces the self-reflection and introspection Higgs has avoided; now, instead of the iconic happy, hazy final days of high school, he’s “buying cigarettes for a tattooed stranger” and taking life-threatening risks. Yee captures the intensity of popularity measured in yearbook pages and the strength of genuine teen melodrama; Mom’s “Robe of Depression” and Higgs’ therapeutic garden add touching depth; ironic twists save the finale from predictability.
Smart, funny-but-ruthless teens and self-absorbed, grieving adults prove to be enormously appealing. (Fiction. 13-18)