My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Thomas Allen & Son
Published: September 18th, 2018
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Sports, Racism, LGBTQIA+, Romance, High School
99 percent of people who read this book on Goodreads enjoyed it. Isn’t that crazy and awesome? I shouldn’t be surprised, because this was a wonderfully-written and deeply-moving story, but the only other book I’m aware of that has the same percentage of enjoyment is Michelle Obama’s memoir.
In the past couple of years I have witnessed many books exploring themes of racism and homophobia surface. Not all of them are well-told. Not all of them convey a clear positive message. Not all of them make it on my list of favourites. But most of them make me think and make me happy there are more perspectives out there.
Sara Farizan’s new novel is a lot of things: funny and sad, disheartening and hopeful, beautiful and ugly, familiar and original as well as realistic yet wish-fulfilling. The last two terms are tricky. From the moment I started this story, I was immediately gripped and found relating to the hero extremely easy. He is a sweetheart and the kind of boy every girl deserves. He was raised right and is trying to live a meaningful high school life.
I loved, loved, loved Bijan. Everything he went through, every hateful act performed against him affected me. It was wrong, unfair, maddening, and I felt it all. At the same time, Bijan made strong and unexpected friendships, a bit à la One Tree Hill (remember the tensions between Lucas and Nathan on and off the basketball court?).
The reason why I find this story to be a bit wish-fulfilling (which is not necessarily a bad thing) is because wrongs are righted by characters without the author walking us through the processes step by step, such as when characters get expulsed and we don’t know everything that transpired or the conversations that led to that. But, of course, we’re happy to never see those people again. There’s also Bijan’s coach who has a sudden character-development I did not believe at 100%. It’s satisfying but not quite realistic. But it brings a smile on your face and makes you feel lighter somehow 🙂
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