A classic, youthful lament—“Why is this happening to me…? It’s so unfair”—avoids the maudlin and banal in the very capable hands of Kantor (The Darlings in Love, 2012, etc.).
For rising juniors and lifelong friends Zoe and Olivia, the first shake-up—no more elite ballet company for them—was bad enough. But when leukemia strikes, a recalibration of the “worst thing that will ever happen” scale is required. Mirroring the harsh reality of modern-day cancer, hopes for Olivia rise and fall right along with blood counts, and a complete cure feels like it’s always just one procedure or experimental drug away. For Zoe, normal life goes on, with fundraising car washes, ditzy cheerleaders and a potential boyfriend distracting and complicating her days. How can she fall for Olivia’s crush? Should she tell her? Hit the party or the hospital? This high school drama goes well below the surface; faith is explored, and well-developed family members, friends and teachers play strong roles. These teens are not navigating life alone but are part of a supportive community. Readers just in it for the plot risk missing the poignant moments where Kantor’s strong, graceful writing captures the innocence and sophistication of youth and the hopes and the fears of the girls and their families.
Teens, heartache and acute illness: The tears will flow. (Fiction. 13 & up)