The moment Spencer meets Hope the summer before seventh grade, it’s . . . something at first sight. He knows she’s special, possibly even magical. The pair become fast friends, climbing trees and planning world travels. After years of being outshone by his older brother and teased because of his Tourette syndrome, Spencer finally feels like he belongs. But as Hope and Spencer get older and life gets messier, the clear label of “friend” gets messier, too.
Through sibling feuds and family tragedies, new relationships and broken hearts, the two grow together and apart, and Spencer, an aspiring scientist, tries to map it all out using his trusty system of taxonomy. He wants to identify and classify their relationship, but in the end, he finds that life doesn’t always fit into easy-to-manage boxes, and it’s this messy complexity that makes life so rich and beautiful.
Potentially Sensitive Areas: Strong language, Discrimination, Strong sexual themes, Corporal punishment
Booklist (November 1, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 5))
Grades 8-12. Spencer has been able to see directly into Hope’s bedroom window from his own since she moved to town the summer before seventh grade. From that vantage, they’ve been in the right place to fall for each other, but never at the right time. That hasn’t kept Spencer from annotating, in detailed, drawn taxonomies, their ever-changing relationship throughout middle and high school: Hope as the only girl who likes to climb trees with him. Hope as the one person who doesn’t make fun of his Tourette’s. Hope as the object of his affection when she’s dating other people, but who is emotionally unreachable when she isn’t. In this sincerely charming account of one friendship in flux over the course of six years—eons in adolescence—the pair wrestle with their relationship. Simple summer crush? Tireless support through family strife and personal illness? Lovelorn confidante? Through sparkling prose (and Spencer’s clever doodles), Allen depicts how debasing unrequited love can feel, and just how consuming that connection can be when shared at long last.
Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Two teens chronicle six years of their unpredictable relationships.Despite his habit of sorting people into categories, Spencer Barton, an awkward white boy with Tourette’s syndrome, doesn’t fit in anywhere. He doesn’t share his father and older brother’s love of hunting, and his tics make him a bully magnet. But when Hope Birdsong, a “magical” white girl, moves in next door, she becomes his—protector? Friend? Girlfriend? As they grow up in the insular Georgia town of Peach Valley, Spencer details their amorphous, contentious, on-and-off relationship from ages 13 to 19. His self-deprecating narrative, supplemented with snarky flow charts, alternates with Hope’s pensive text messages and handwritten letters to her older sister. As Spencer and Hope navigate their feelings for each other, their relationships with friends and family—tinged with parental disappointment, sibling rivalry, and grief—evolve. The long time frame occasionally condenses important events, resulting in some clunky expository dialogue and abrupt character development. However, fast-forwarding also allows Spencer and Hope to reflect (albeit somewhat heavy-handedly) on their maturing views of love, sex, friendship, disability, racism (at the expense of a briefly featured black secondary character), and loss. The ending provides closure, but it feels rather neat after the lessons learned from their messy ups and downs. Patient readers will want to follow Spencer and Hope’s tangled relationship just to see where it finally ends up. (Romance. 13-18)
About the Author
Rachael Allen is the author of 17 First Kisses and The Revenge Playbook. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, two children, and two sled dogs.
Her website is rachaelallenwrites.blogspot.com
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