Are there secrets that shouldn’t be revealed?
In this sequel to The Perfect Score (2017), Randi, Natalie, Gavin, Trevor, and Scott are assigned community service for cheating on a standardized test. It’s not really a punishment, as these good-natured students enjoy working in the senior center where they’ve established relationships, and besides, they want to reconcile two of their teachers, a mother and daughter, before it’s too late. As before, narration alternates among the five, and while their characters are well-developed, the various issues are examined lightly. In this case, many are related to secrecy, from budding romance to absentee fathers, familial estrangement, parental marital problems, financial struggle, Alzheimer’s, brain injury, adult illiteracy, immigration, and racism. The last three revolve around Gavin, whose Mexican-immigrant mother is undocumented and who becomes the target of the racist football coach. Aside from biracial Gavin and his mother, the book adheres to the white default. Though handled with kindness and compassion, the sheer abundance of topics results in oversimplification, and every story has a pat ending, which, cumulatively, seems unlikely. Still, the characters shine, the plots are engaging, and the issues are addressed in interesting ways that will provide readers with many perspectives and much to consider.
Strong characters grapple with a multitude of issues (a few too many) in this celebration of friendship and the rewards of volunteer work. (Fiction. 9-12)