Frankly in Love by David Yoon (9781984812209)
Frank Li’s parents expect him to date only Korean-American girls. They make racist comments about all other races, even though Frank’s best friend Q is black. So when Frank breaks the rules and starts dating Brit, a white girl, he has to come up with a cover story. That’s where Joy comes in, she is a fellow Korean-American also caught in her families rules and she is also dating a non-Korean. So the two of them create a system where they pretend to date one another while actually dating other people. It’s the perfect plan until it falls apart as Frank learns what love is. Meanwhile, Frank’s family faces health issues and violence. Frank realizes that while his family may never understand him, he loves and needs them in his life.
Yoon has created one of the hottest YA titles of the fall. To my delight, it’s popular for a reason. Yoon’s frank exploration of racism both societal and within one family is refreshingly honest, not ever ducking away from difficult and deep conversations. The interplay of that and other serious topics with an almost rom com escapade of fake dating makes for an intoxicating mix.
Frank Li (whose name is a delight) is a wonderful protagonist. He is immensely smart and not overly naive. His personal take on his heritage and culture grows and changes throughout the novel in an organic way. There are no easy answers offered here, no final moment of clarity. Instead it is all about growth and the ability to understand one another and find connection, even after it has been damaged or severed.
A great teen novel that is a marvelous mix of romance and depth. Appropriate for ages 13-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by Putnam.
What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera (9780062795250)
When Arthur and Ben meet for the first time, it’s perfect. However, neither of them get each other’s numbers. With Arthur in New York City for just the summer, they have a limited time find one another again in a huge city. Thanks to some expert sleuthing online by friends, a flyer in a specific coffee shop, and the universe helping them out, they manage to meet once more. But what if it’s not actually meant to be? Arthur has never had a boyfriend before, and Ben has just broken up with his first serious boyfriend. Arthur tries a little too hard, and Ben doesn’t quite try hard enough particularly when it comes to being on time. Could it be that they just aren’t mean to be together after all?
The pairing of these two master authors is beautifully done. There is no clear line where one author’s voice begins and the other ends, instead the voices of the two characters meld and create a cohesive experience. The humor in particular is skillfully done with both Arthur and Ben having distinct personalities, voices and senses of humor. New York City itself is a backdrop to their summer together and becomes almost a character of her own. From subway rides to tourist traps to Broadway shows to coffee shops, the city shows her own magic throughout the book.
The entire novel reads like a movie with scenes playing out visually and the dialogue snappy and quick. The book has strong secondary characters as well who are vibrant and entirely their own people. In particular, the two sets of parents are well drawn and it’s great to see everyone supporting their gay kids. Additionally, the depiction of gay sex focuses on consent, pleasure and is entirely positive.
A humorous, honest and heartfelt novel that offers a gorgeous look at the ups and downs of relationships through the eyes of a gay couple. Appropriate for ages 15-18.
Reviewed from ARC provided by HarperTeen.
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, illustrated by Maira Kalman
Released December 27, 2011.
Min and Ed have broken up, that’s why she thunks down a box full of things on his doorstep. Inside the box are the small mementos of a relationship and the answers to what is behind their break up. The box also contains a long letter to Ed that Min has written, explaining fully both the growth of their relationship and her feelings for him, but even more so the reasons that they can never be together. The box holds memories and mementos: a toy truck, a movie ticket, a protractor, a note, and rose petals. Each item is tied to a part of the story, a moment in their time together, times when there were warnings of how it would end but Min ignored all of them until that last one. The one that brings us back to this box and that doorstep.
Handler’s writing here is striking. He moves from a more normal syntax and structure into rushes of stream of conscious writing that is breathless and dazzling and bitter. These are the moments where the pain of the breakup is right there, a heartbeat away. It is a book filled with surprising moments, aching with importance and equally part of normal life.
This is a relationship laid bare and honest, searingly truthful at times. At the same time, distrust and foreboding is always right there since the reader knows from the first page that the relationship is doomed. It is this rich mix of the delight of new love and the awareness that it ended badly that makes the book compulsively readable.
Dazzling and honest, this book will speak to any teen who has been dumped, any teen in a relationship, and any teen looking for one. Appropriate for ages 15-17.
Reviewed from ARC received from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Check out the Why We Broke Up Project website too.