Nandan is perpetually lost.
Confused about his sexuality, his social status, and how he feels about the other high school students he calls his friends, Nandan manipulates and maneuvers his way through social interactions, hanging out with people he doesn’t really like. Nandan hooks up with Dave, who “was actually kind of hot,” but “maybe folks didn’t see it because he was Asian.” He feels disgusted about it later and wonders if he only did it to try and impress the popular crowd. These teens include Pothan and Ken, who are both bullies and gaslighters as well as sexist. The book includes a character who feels like being gay would make him cool, blasé and sarcastic use of the term “microaggressions,” teenage alcohol abuse, many unhealthy relationships and friendships, and an entire conversation by boys about how to manipulate a girl into sleeping with you. It is reminiscent of how exhausting being a teen can be, as all the characters are so crippled with anxiety and overthinking that the story advances at a snail’s pace. Its strength lies in the normalization of negotiating the complex social structure of teenage friendships and relationships, but it is also reminiscent of watching a documentary or reality show about awful people that was largely, painfully unedited. Nandan is Indian American, and there is diversity in the supporting cast.
Frustratingly long-winded and rambling. (Fiction. 14-18)