Two teens chronicle six years of their unpredictable relationships.
Despite his habit of sorting people into categories, Spencer Barton, an awkward white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t share his father and older brother’s love of hunting, and his tics make him a bully magnet. But when Hope Birdsong, a “magical” white girl, moves in next door, she becomes his—protector? Friend? Girlfriend? As they grow up in the insular Georgia town of Peach Valley, Spencer details their amorphous, contentious, on-and-off relationship from ages 13 to 19. His self-deprecating narrative, supplemented with snarky flow charts, alternates with Hope’s pensive text messages and handwritten letters to her older sister. As Spencer and Hope navigate their feelings for each other, their relationships with friends and family—tinged with parental disappointment, sibling rivalry, and grief—evolve. The long time frame occasionally condenses important events, resulting in some clunky expository dialogue and abrupt character development. However, fast-forwarding also allows Spencer and Hope to reflect (albeit somewhat heavy-handedly) on their maturing views of love, sex, friendship, disability, racism (at the expense of a briefly featured black secondary character), and loss. The ending provides closure, but it feels rather neat after the lessons learned from their messy ups and downs.
Patient readers will want to follow Spencer and Hope’s tangled relationship just to see where it finally ends up. (Romance. 13-18)