Best friends combat relationship strain caused by parental interference, secrets, and a new abusive boyfriend in this novel in verse.
Sophomores Zari and Clare have been inseparable since Zari moved to town for her father's job. Although both teens are creative—Zari is a poet, Clare plays the guitar—their home lives couldn't be more different; Zari's parents are status-conscious and controlling while Clare's widowed mother is supportive but busy working full time and going to college. As Zari's parents force her to take an internship with a renowned professor, Clare starts busking to help her mom make ends meet. Seasons, rather than chapters, break up the text, and winter brings unexpected changes. In compelling scenes, Zari's parents discover she and her brother are playing music with Clare on the streets and forbid them from hanging out with her; readers will empathize with the teens' feelings of powerlessness. Forced to choose between family and best friend, Zari turns to Dion, the professor's son. Although the transition from first kiss to abuse with Dion feels abrupt, the way he manipulates and ultimately controls her rings true. Told in alternating first-person voices, the connection between Zari and Clare is well-executed, and their relationship's growing pains resonate with honesty. There are no physical descriptions to indicate race.
Holds strong appeal for reluctant readers, exploring different types of love, social class, and dating violence. (Verse novel. 12-18)
Gr 9 Up-Zari and Clare are convinced that their friendship will never end, a belief that is tested when Zari's new relationship turns abusive. Zari and Clare have very different home lives; Clare's widowed mother struggles to pay the bills, while Zari's father's career as a college professor keeps her comfortably middle-to-upper class. When Clare and Zari are apprehended for busking, Zari's mother pressures her to distance herself from Clare. Zari's internship with her father's colleague brings her into contact with his son, Dion, with whom she starts a relationship. Dion easily gets angry with Zari, but tells her that he's just joking or apologizes after his outbursts. When Clare becomes suspicious about Zari's inexplicable bruises, her effort to get law enforcement involved fails when she is told that nothing can be done without Zari's consent. After Dion attacks Clare and he ends up in the hospital, Zari decides to leave him and her parents come to approve of her reconciliation with Clare. Although this is a strong and positive portrayal of female friendship, the ending seems a bit too pat and tidy. Zari's decision to leave Dion seems to be rather clear-cut and without much hesitation. Clare's relationship with her mother is heartwarming. VERDICT This novel in verse highlights the lasting value of friendship, as well as the importance of reaching out and supporting loved ones through difficult circumstances. Purchase where verse novels and/or short, accessible reads about contemporary issues are popular.-Jennifer Schultz Angoli, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA