A well-written and engaging tale of a new friendship featuring a compelling cast.


Two tweens form a rewarding friendship while riding the bus together.

In this middle-grade novel, Gilah meets Guillermo when the bus she is riding hits the boy and his bike, and she is the only one who notices. With his bike out of commission, Guillermo starts riding the bus to school, and their initial connection gradually warms into a friendship and a growth opportunity for both of them. Gilah is an avid break dancer who is practicing a special piece to perform at her upcoming bat mitzvah, along with her Torah portion. She is also preparing a speech that will allow her to express herself without breaking the rules of communication she has struggled to learn. Guillermo is a poet, slowly building up the nerve to share his verse with others—even if he first does so by writing a poem instead of completing his math assignment—and finding a place for himself after his family’s move to Washington, D.C. In chapters that alternate between the two characters’ narration—Gilah’s story is in prose, while Guillermo’s account is in verse—they pursue their own goals and offer different perspectives on their shared experiences. Gilah invites Guillermo to her bat mitzvah, where a misunderstanding robs her of the opportunity to present the dance she had planned. But she is able to perform the work later on her own terms and shows up to celebrate Guillermo at his first poetry reading.

Ehrenberg and debut author López have brought the two characters’ interior and exterior lives into vivid relief. Gilah’s narration is filled with elegant metaphors that are never overdone, like her comparison of the Torah’s omitted vowels to the way her mind works differently: “I think that proves that ‘harder to read’ does not equal ‘broken.’ ” Gilah is on the autism spectrum, which will be obvious to readers from the opening pages. This condition goes largely unmentioned in the narrative, instead serving as a textbook example of show, don’t tell. Readers get an intimate portrayal of how hard she works to exist in a neurotypical world and how much easier she finds it when those who love her adjust their own behaviors to meet her needs. The poetic forms of Guillermo’s sections—occasionally in rhyme, more often free verse and, in one case, an acrostic—are necessarily sparer than Gilah’s detailed prose but serve equally well to bring readers into his mind. Guillermo is developing independence while remaining connected to his close-knit clan, discovering the confidence to share his work with the public, and defining his own role at his family’s bakery and in his new community. An abundance of local details brings the book’s Washington setting to life. The strong secondary characters, including Gilah’s gymnast younger sister, Miri; her Hebrew tutor, Josh; and Guillermo’s math teacher, Mr. Whitaker, are multilayered and fully realized. Themes of Judaism, identity, self-determination, and family are seamlessly woven into the story, making for a solidly plotted and well-paced novel with emotional resonance throughout.

A well-written and engaging tale of a new friendship featuring a compelling cast.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-73655-735-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: PJ Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Sweet, honest, and filled with personality.


Many begin college with hopes of personal reinvention, and Alex Blackwood and Molly Parker are no exception.

Apparently opposite in every way, both girls nevertheless arrive for their freshman year at the University of Pittsburgh with the same goal in mind: to fundamentally change the way others perceive them and get their dream girls. Easy-peasy. Molly, whose mom is a transracial adoptee from Korea and whose father is assumed White, was socially anxious in high school. She worries that her close friendship with her mother holds her back. Willowy, blond Alex, who is implied White, has never once found herself at a loss in a social situation, and yet her fairy-tale story of adolescent beauty and wit is tempered by having a single mom whose struggles with alcohol abuse meant shouldering responsibilities far beyond her years. Utilizing tried and true tropes, married couple Lippincott and Derrick cut right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the mysteries of romance. Queerness itself is never the motivator of the drama, and gratifyingly, both girls find in one another the means to explore and unpack complexities of life unrelated to their sexualities. Nothing is made simplistic—not Alex’s relationship to self-expression and conventional beauty standards, nor Molly’s experiences of culture and community in a world that has expectations of her based on her racial identity.

Sweet, honest, and filled with personality. (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: April 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5344-9379-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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An endearing story of rediscovery that brings out tears of both laughter and heartbreak.


Samina Rahman can’t wait to leave New York for California: Will she rediscover her love for New York City before she heads off to college?

Seventeen-year-old Mina dreams of the day she can leave home and enter the University of Southern California, where she hopes to study business and film in the fall. The Bangladeshi Muslim teen’s golden ticket comes in the form of a prestigious film festival that offers a scholarship for the winner of the student film competition. As co-president of the film club at her high school along with her gay White best friend, Rosie Hardy, Mina is laser focused on winning. Enter Emmitt Ramos, a Chinese and Spanish indie film star from London who has gone undercover at Mina’s high school in preparation for his upcoming movie. Mina and Emmitt get off to a rocky start after she figures out who he really is, but with one another they slowly start to uncover parts of themselves that they keep hidden from the rest of the world. Mina has a well-developed and well-rounded character arc. Bhuiyan captures the internal struggles of belonging to the South Asian diaspora by exploring both Mina’s strained relationship with her parents and her loving and protective relationship with her sister, Anam.

An endearing story of rediscovery that brings out tears of both laughter and heartbreak. (author's note) (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-335-42456-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Inkyard Press

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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