When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn’t sure if she’ll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.
But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new…the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel’s disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself–or worse.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Strong sexual themes, Discussion of abortion, Discrimination based on sexuality, Marijuana, Discussion of a racist joke
Booklist starred (May 15, 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 18))
Grades 9-12. Suzette’s back in California for the summer after spending the year at boarding school in New England, and she’s looking forward to being back home, though she’s nervous about reuniting with her stepbrother, Lion. Before she left for school, she broke a promise to Lion and told their parents his bipolar disorder was getting out of control. Now that she’s back, she’s worried she irrevocably altered their relationship, and while she’s trying to rebuild it, Lion starts to spiral again. Meanwhile, Suzette is facing some new truths about herself, too. At boarding school, she was surprised to fall hard for her roommate, Iris, and back home, she’s even more surprised to discover feelings for her old friend Emil, her mother’s best friend’s son. As the plot bounces back and forth in time, Colbert juggles all the moving parts expertly, handily untangling Suzette’s complicated feelings about herself and her relationships and gradually illuminating pithy moments of discovery. One of many notable strengths here is Colbert’s subtle, neatly interwoven exploration of intersectionality: Lion is desperate to be defined by something other than his bipolar disorder, and Suzette learns to navigate key elements of her identity—black, Jewish, bisexual—in a world that seems to want her to be only one thing. This superbly written novel teems with meaningful depth, which is perfectly balanced by romance and the languid freedom of summer.
Kirkus Reviews starred (May 15, 2017)
Sixteen-year-old Suzette was sent to boarding school when her bookish older brother, Lionel, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but now she’s back in Los Angeles for the summer.Despite the strange looks their family attracts—Suzette and her mom are black, while Lionel and his dad are white—Lionel and Suzette were always close before Lionel’s diagnosis. With Suzette back home, Lionel confides in her that he’s going off his medication. Fearing that to divulge his secret will ruin any chance of rebuilding their bond, Suzette keeps quiet even though she feels responsible for her brother’s well-being. Simultaneously, Suzette balances her blooming feelings for Emil Choi, a sunny, biracial (black/Korean) boy with Ménière’s disease, and for Rafaela, a pansexual Latina—whom, disastrously, Lionel is also falling for. To make matters worse, Suzette is still grappling with a homophobic act that exposed her relationship with her white boarding school roommate, Iris. Suzette’s engrossing present-tense narration intertwines with sporadic—but pertinent—flashback chapters. Colbert (Pointe, 2014) sensitively confronts misconceptions about mental illness, bisexuality, and intersectional identity (“people have too many questions when you’re black and Jewish,” thinks Suzette). A vibrantly depicted Los Angeles and a rich, though at-times unwieldy cast of characters create a convincing world. Readers will empathize with Suzette as she explores both her sexuality and the tricky line between honesty and betrayal. (Fiction. 14-18)
About the Author
Brandy Colbert was born and raised in Springfield, Missouri. Her debut novel, Pointe, won the 2014 Cyblis Award for young adult fiction and was named a best book of 2014 by Publishers Weekly, BuzzFeed, Book Riot, and more. She was chosen as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start for spring 2014. Brandy works as a copyeditor and lives in Los Angeles, California.
Her website is brandycolbert.com
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