Pub. Date: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Thanks so much to Netgalley and Sourcebooks Fire for providing me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Plot Summary: Seventeen-year-old Ariel has only one goal: To make it into Harvard. As first chair violin, community volunteer, and to-be valedictorian, he is doing everything he thinks he needs to do to be the perfect college applicant. Failing Calculus was not part of the plan, so Ariel scrambles through sleepless nights and reluctantly seeks out Amir to tutor him. Sparks fly between him and Amir, but can Ariel afford to add a budding new relationship to his long list of commitments?
Sophomore novels always make me nervous, but Laura hit this one right out of the park. This book contains a very honest, raw portrayal of academic pressures and the ridiculous performance standards that come with it. I’ve always maintained that there isn’t enough money in the world to make me repeat high school, and this book captures exactly why. Laura strategically uses all the subplots to press on the central conflict, layering the tension as we go through the story. While I wasn’t a valedictorian or even one of the high ranking students in school, I definitely related to the close-knit community that Ariel was placed in, and the never-ending pile of things one commits to when living in such a community. I honestly don’t remember how I managed to juggle them all, and Ariel’s growing stress and inability to say no to his family or friends resonated with me. I’m also glad that the romance wasn’t the central conflict and didn’t take over the central conflict, and the story retained the weight of the struggle. The climax and resolution of the conflict were very satisfying as well. As far as representation goes, Laura continues to do an excellent job with seamless inclusivity without it coming off as tokenism. It warmed my heart to see the close family, sibling, and community dynamics, as well as Ariel’s interaction with faith. A lot of it reminded me of my own childhood, and I’m glad this book exists for teens today.
Overall a highly enjoyable book with a gripping storyline and well fleshed-out characters. I’m ecstatic to say that I’m still in love with Laura’s writing and storytelling, and can’t wait to read more of her work in the future.