Do not let the title or cover deceive you. Sure… it seems unassuming and lets you think it is a quiet coming of age story but suddenly… BOOM! This book unleashes all of its power upon you and you realize this is so much more. So much more intense and it will grab you by the shirt collar and demand your attention.
Short recap: Sixteen year old Suzette is coming home from her first year at boarding school. She’s excited to see her family and friends, as any teenager would be. But what she comes back to is not what she left.
What stood out to me the most about this powerhouse was the protagonist, Suzette. She was such a diverse character that I immediately fell under her spell. She was a Jewish black girl who has a mixed raced family and a mentally ill brother. She is also exploring her bisexuality. She was thrown all of the questions bisexuals would encounter, “Do you like boys or girls more?” or “If you date a girl, does that mean you are just gay?”. Suzette had such a strong voice and I applaud her for that. She never sat back and let life throw its punches, she chose to go toe to toe. She never back down and she was always determined. She faced all of those questions and more and just punched them in the face. Suzette’s friends are just as wonderful to read about. They were all so diverse that it made my heart fly just a little higher. Emil is a Korean/Africian-American who has Meniere’s disease (which means hard of hearing), Lionel is a Jewish black male diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Rafaela is a pansexual Latina. Talk about giving YA the diverse book it has been asking for.
I applaud Colbert for not making this an “issues book”. Yes, Suzette’s brother has a mental illness but this story was brilliant in how it handled that topic. This story was also amazing in how a seemingly unassuming diverse family covered the topics of multiracial families, sexual identity, and racism. The story was just subtle enough to touch all topics and not make it one giant issues book. How Suzette and her family handled these tough topics came across real and genuine. It made me adore her character that much more.
I am so happy that I gave this book a chance. I was blown away by how much this story affected me. I felt as if I connected with the characters and I wanted to go on this journey with them. I wanted to hug them when things went bad and rejoice when good things happened. It takes a strong story with a powerhouse cast to do that to me and that is exactly what you can expect to find between the covers of this book. Please, give it a read if you have not already.