In a warm and uplifting coming-out story, Leila, whose family is Persian, develops feelings for Saskia, a flirtatious and careless new classmate.
Leila realized she liked girls at summer camp, but she’s not ready to share her discovery with other students at her elite private high school or with her conservative parents. But with wild new-girl Saskia possibly flirting with her, her zombie-movie–loving buddy Greg trying to date her, and Leila’s former friend Lisa paying attention to her after spending years with the popular crowd, Leila’s secret becomes harder to keep. There are numerous subplots, including an Iranian family friend’s wedding, a school production of Twelfth Night and multiple love triangles, but every loose end is tied up, and the story never feels crowded. Leila’s journey with Saskia as well as with her family is related with emotional nuance and care. An appealing cast of well-drawn characters—Christina, a vampire-obsessed theater tech-crew member, Tomas, the gay director and taskmaster of the middle school play she helps with, and Tess, a refreshingly confident nerdy girl—makes the story shine. Lessons abound, from the truth that her seemingly perfect older sister is actually human to “everybody farts,” but skillful character development keeps Leila’s discoveries from ever feeling didactic.
Funny, heartwarming and wise. (Fiction. 12-18)