First love, racism, family strife, and the Internet’s culture of anonymous cruelty are some of the many themes explored in this illustrated novel by Happyface (2010) author Emond.
High school senior Walter, who is white, lives with his dad, a cop whose career has nose-dived in the years since he and Walter's mom divorced and they moved from a middle-class suburb to a working-class neighborhood in the city. Anxious and endearingly awkward, Walter has done his best to fly under the radar with his peers, until he falls hard for his friend's sister: smart, witty, harp-playing Naomi, who is black. The pressure experienced by couples from different ethnic backgrounds is realistically intensified for this sweetly likable pair when Walter's dad arrests a black teen for burglary and is accused of assaulting him, igniting debate and anger in their neighborhood and at large. Most impressive in this emotionally charged novel is the way each of the characters is fully imagined; they emerge as complex individuals who are shaped by a variety of factors and are not portrayed as simple heroes or villains.
There are no easy answers to the issues at play in this story, and fittingly, there is much that is left open-ended. Readers will be left with plenty on their minds and in their hearts. (Fiction. 12 & up)