If you love Talia Hibbert and you love YA novels, you’re going to love this book. If you love fun YA novels, you are going to be obsessed with this. If you love Talia Hibbert and you hate YA novels with a fiery passion, you are going to be okay anyway. I fall into the latter category, just so my biases are front and centre for ya.
Plot: Celine is an overachieving nerd with a goal of becoming a kickass corporate lawyer so she could rub it in her deadbeat dad’s face. Bradley is an athlete aiming to become a lawyer because his aggressively lovely, supportive, loving father is a lawyer and his eyes lit up when his son said he was considering following in his footsteps. They used to be best friends, but then Brad got popular and Celine lashed out and now they’re enemies in a way only hormonal teens can be. And now they’re up for the same scholarship, which involves, shudder, camping. Shenanigans ensue.
This book is adorable. It’s the kind of book I wish was around when I was in high school, although I would have almost certainly passed it by because I was a Very Serious Adult and the cover is super twee. In classic Hibbert fashion, our heroes are dealing with real trauma, and not doing it very well. Celine has defined success as making someone who hurt her regret it, rather than her happiness or fulfillment. Brad has defined success as making his parents proud, and has decided for them what that would be. On top of this, they’re also dealing health issues that are still so rare to see in stories about young people (or any age), not the Nicholas Sparksian cancer, but the kind of shit that you just have to build your life around that makes you high maintenance and irritable and as a result unlovable unless you hide those broken bits that people don’t want to deal with.
But Hibbert doesn’t believe in tokenism. Celina and Brad have their issues, and those issues inform who they are and how they navigate the world, but they don’t define them. Not only that, but on top of normalizing these kinds of difficulties, Hibbert also deftly shows how little you usually actually need to do to accommodate the needs that come out of disability. On the whole, we usually know our bodies and have built a life that meshes with what we can and can’t do, and the people around us don’t need to do a huge amount beyond being patient as it takes us ten times longer to do something than someone else.
Hibbert’s trademark sense of humour is also alive and well here. And if you love Hibbert and have some younger people in your life you wish you could introduce her to, this might be the book to do it with.