An entertaining, well-told love story/drama.

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Complications arise in this YA novel when a brilliant teenage coder’s anonymous sex education blog goes viral and a friendship becomes romantic.

Amber Henderson is a senior at private Wilmont Academy—possibly “the last non-religious school on the planet still operating under the abstinence only policy.” Because plenty of kids are having sex anyway, they really need some good advice, such as how to obtain reliable birth control. Amber can rely on her sex-positive parents, but she’d love to help the less fortunate. She and Dean Winters vie for the title of the school’s most talented coder, so when he proposes a bet (for bragging rights and a deadmau5 T-shirt) to get under Principal Tanner’s skin via hacking, Amber has a perfect idea. She’ll set up an untraceable sex advice blog on the darknet, making sure everyone knows it’s written by a Wilmont student, and help information-starved students while riling Tanner. Though Amber and Dean are both hot as well as gifted and share much in common, she considers him out of her league; she’s also tormented by memories of a bad encounter with her ex-boyfriend. The coders’ growing relationship is put sorely to the test when Tanner blackmails Dean into uncovering who’s behind the increasingly popular blog. Lee (Love Beyond Opposites, 2018, etc.) sets up a classic confrontation between cool kids and an uptight administrator: They’re smart, funny, and gorgeous while he’s venal, underhanded, and vindictive. The point of view alternates between Amber and Dean, each voice distinctive but both capturing a true teenage feel. Their developing romance is sweet and sizzling, with a lot of sensitivity toward Amber’s fears. That Dean can’t figure out the identity of the advice-giver is somewhat contrived as an obstacle given that he and Amber are the only two members of the Code Club. Another tip-off is that Amber’s mother writes erotica and her father is a teen psychologist. The emotions can become melodramatically overwrought, and both main characters are altogether a bit too flawless, especially in looks. Still, it’s an engaging novel that nicely illuminates the coder subculture and deals honestly with teenage sexuality.

An entertaining, well-told love story/drama.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-658-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Review Posted Online: May 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

Aspiring filmmaker/first-novelist Chbosky adds an upbeat ending to a tale of teenaged angst—the right combination of realism and uplift to allow it on high school reading lists, though some might object to the sexuality, drinking, and dope-smoking. More sophisticated readers might object to the rip-off of Salinger, though Chbosky pays homage by having his protagonist read Catcher in the Rye. Like Holden, Charlie oozes sincerity, rails against celebrity phoniness, and feels an extraliterary bond with his favorite writers (Harper Lee, Fitzgerald, Kerouac, Ayn Rand, etc.). But Charlie’s no rich kid: the third child in a middle-class family, he attends public school in western Pennsylvania, has an older brother who plays football at Penn State, and an older sister who worries about boys a lot. An epistolary novel addressed to an anonymous “friend,” Charlie’s letters cover his first year in high school, a time haunted by the recent suicide of his best friend. Always quick to shed tears, Charlie also feels guilty about the death of his Aunt Helen, a troubled woman who lived with Charlie’s family at the time of her fatal car wreck. Though he begins as a friendless observer, Charlie is soon pals with seniors Patrick and Sam (for Samantha), stepsiblings who include Charlie in their circle, where he smokes pot for the first time, drops acid, and falls madly in love with the inaccessible Sam. His first relationship ends miserably because Charlie remains compulsively honest, though he proves a loyal friend (to Patrick when he’s gay-bashed) and brother (when his sister needs an abortion). Depressed when all his friends prepare for college, Charlie has a catatonic breakdown, which resolves itself neatly and reveals a long-repressed truth about Aunt Helen. A plain-written narrative suggesting that passivity, and thinking too much, lead to confusion and anxiety. Perhaps the folks at (co-publisher) MTV see the synergy here with Daria or any number of videos by the sensitive singer-songwriters they feature.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 1999

ISBN: 0-671-02734-4

Page Count: 256

Publisher: MTV/Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1999

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A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

ADORKABLE

In O’Gorman’s YA debut, two best friends try to fool people into thinking that they’re in love—and then discover a new facet of their relationship.

Sally Spitz is a frizzy-haired 17-year-old girl with a charming zeal for three things: Harry Potter (she’s a Gryffindor), Star Wars, and getting into Duke University. During her senior year of high school, she goes on a slew of miserable dates, set up by her mother and her own second-best–friend–turned-matchmaker, Lillian Hooker. Sally refuses to admit to anyone that she’s actually head over Converses in love with her longtime best friend, a boy named Baldwin Eugene Charles Kent, aka “Becks.” After a particularly awkward date, Sally devises a plan to end Lillian’s matchmaking attempts; specifically, she plans to hire someone to act as her fake boyfriend, or “F.B.F.” But before Sally can put her plan into action, a rumor circulates that Sally and Becks are already dating. Becks agrees to act as Sally’s F.B.F. in exchange for a box of Goobers and Sally’s doing his calculus homework for a month. Later, as they hold hands in the hall and “practice” make-out sessions in Becks’ bedroom, their friendship heads into unfamiliar territory. Over the course of this novel, O’Gorman presents an inviting and enjoyable account of lifelong friendship transforming into young love. Though the author’s reliance on familiar tropes may be comforting to a casual reader, it may frustrate those who may be looking for a more substantial and less predictable plot. A number of ancillary characters lack very much complexity, and the story, overall, would have benefited from an added twist or two. Even so, however, this remains a largely engaging and often endearing debut. 

A familiar but heartfelt romance for easygoing readers.

Pub Date: Dec. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-64063-759-7

Page Count: 340

Publisher: Entangled: Teen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 7, 2020

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