YA – Kind of Sort of Fine

Hall, Spencer. Kind of Sort of Fine. Atheneum, 2021. 978-1-534-48298-2. 276  p. $18.99. Grades 9-12.

Senior Hayley Mills is a straight-A student in her advanced classes and a star athlete on the tennis team. Or at least she was. Last year she had a mental breakdown in front of her high school and, thanks to some onlookers, it became a viral video. Now, at the start of what is supposed to be the best year of her life, Hayley’s parents and teachers want her to make some changes to ensure the breakdown doesn’t happen again. As a result, she ends up in a TV Production class instead of one of her advanced placement courses. In TV Production, she meets Lewis Holbrook. A long-time member of the TV Production crew, Lewis is looking to be his best self in 12th grade. This means getting in better shape and finally drumming up the courage to ask out his crush. When Hayley and Lewis are paired up in class, they decide to make documentaries about the little known talents of their fellow classmates. Together, the two of them get to know their classmates’ identities more deeply than ever. What they didn’t expect, however, was to discover new things about themselves along the way.

THOUGHTS: Hall’s first novel is a humorous, coming-of-age story in which high school students (and those who have experienced high school) can relate. Told in alternating chapters between Hayley and Lewis, each point of view brings senior year anxiety into sharp focus but in different ways. This book would be a solid choice for high school libraries.

Realistic Fiction          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love

Reck, Jared. Donuts and Other Proclamations of Love. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021. 978-1-524-71611-0. 306 p. $17.99. Grades 7-10.

Oscar Olsson knows exactly what he wants to do with his life after high school: work on his family’s food truck, Hej Hej!, with his Swedish grandfather and longtime guardian, “Farfar.” In fact, the sooner that future arrives, the better. He views senior year as a series of endless hoops to jump through, though he does enjoy his independent study in the culinary lab. Unfortunately, Oscar gets roped into a cafeteria food waste reduction project spearheaded by Ivy League hopeful Mary Louise Messinger, a.k.a. Lou. Hundreds of rescued apples, batches of cider, and trays of crisp later, laser-focused Lou has worked her way onto the food truck and into Oscar and Farfar’s lives … and maybe into Oscar’s heart? But an overheard comment reminds him that Lou thinks he is beneath her, a loser with no serious plans for his future. Hints dropped throughout the narrative cue readers to an upcoming wrench in Oscar’s plans, possibly a tragic one, and when the moment arrives it is, indeed, devastating. Jared Reck’s pitch-perfect sophomore novel perfectly captures the way that life can be hilarious one moment and heartbreaking the next. Main and supporting characters are well-developed and distinctive, especially the unforgettable Farfar and his beloved cat Koopa, as is the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, setting.

THOUGHTS: This winning story about food trucks, family, friendship, and first love is fantastic from start to finish.

Realistic Fiction          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD