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Readers who embrace the premise will enjoy watching the drama unfold.

The high school rumor mill becomes even more treacherous when deepfakes are thrown into the mix.

Dara and Will are at the top of Greenpoint High’s senior class—enviable because, as the Rumor Has It gossip site reveals, they are a happy couple whose top grades put them both in the running for valedictorian. The anonymous writer suggests that Will’s best friend, MJ, is upset—possibly because she has a crush on him or because her first-choice college rejected her. But it is the site’s next post, containing a video of Dara speculating that Will cheated on his SATs, that causes an uproar among this default-White cast. Despite Dara’s denial that she ever said this, Will breaks up with her and the school initiates an investigation of Will’s SAT. The story is narrated in alternating chapters by Dara and Will, with occasional chapters from MJ’s perspective. Given current media hype over manipulated videos, most readers won’t understand why the Greenpoint brainiacs readily believe the video is real, making Dara’s determination to expose the fakery feel anticlimactic. These themes were more surprising in 2017’s Takedown by Corrie Wang. Here, the more intriguing questions come later: Who created the deepfake, and who is the writer behind the gossip website? Teens hooked on tales of high school drama who stick with it to the end, when the betrayal is revealed, will feel satisfied.

Readers who embrace the premise will enjoy watching the drama unfold. (Thriller. 12-16)

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-338-17763-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2020

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Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice.

A teenage, not-so-lonely loner endures the wilds of high school in Austin, Texas.

Norris Kaplan, the protagonist of Philippe’s debut novel, is a hypersweaty, uber-snarky black, Haitian, French-Canadian pushing to survive life in his new school. His professor mom’s new tenure-track job transplants Norris mid–school year, and his biting wit and sarcasm are exposed through his cataloging of his new world in a field guide–style burn book. He’s greeted in his new life by an assortment of acquaintances, Liam, who is white and struggling with depression; Maddie, a self-sacrificing white cheerleader with a heart of gold; and Aarti, his Indian-American love interest who offers connection. Norris’ ego, fueled by his insecurities, often gets in the way of meaningful character development. The scenes showcasing his emotional growth are too brief and, despite foreshadowing, the climax falls flat because he still gets incredible personal access to people he’s hurt. A scene where Norris is confronted by his mother for getting drunk and belligerent with a white cop is diluted by his refusal or inability to grasp the severity of the situation and the resultant minor consequences. The humor is spot-on, as is the representation of the black diaspora; the opportunity for broader conversations about other topics is there, however, the uneven buildup of detailed, meaningful exchanges and the glibness of Norris’ voice detract.

Despite some missteps, this will appeal to readers who enjoy a fresh and realistic teen voice. (Fiction. 13-16)

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-282411-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2018

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A smart, timely outing.

Two teens connect through a mysterious podcast in this sophomore effort by British author Oseman (Solitaire, 2015).

Frances Janvier is a 17-year-old British-Ethiopian head girl who is so driven to get into Cambridge that she mostly forgoes friendships for schoolwork. Her only self-indulgence is listening to and creating fan art for the podcast Universe City, “a…show about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university.” Aled Last is a quiet white boy who identifies as “partly asexual.” When Frances discovers that Aled is the secret creator of Universe City, the two embark on a passionate, platonic relationship based on their joint love of pop culture. Their bond is complicated by Aled’s controlling mother and by Frances’ previous crush on Aled’s twin sister, Carys, who ran away last year and disappeared. When Aled’s identity is accidently leaked to the Universe City fandom, he severs his relationship with Frances, leaving her questioning her Cambridge goals and determined to win back his affection, no matter what the cost. Frances’ narration is keenly intelligent; she takes mordant pleasure in using an Indian friend’s ID to get into a club despite the fact they look nothing alike: “Gotta love white people.” Though the social-media–suffused plot occasionally lags, the main characters’ realistic relationship accurately depicts current issues of gender, race, and class.

A smart, timely outing. (Fiction. 12-16)

Pub Date: March 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-233571-5

Page Count: 496

Publisher: HarperTeen

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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