A lively novel with as much appeal as the band itself.

IF THIS GETS OUT

Saturday has everything a boy band should: sleek choreography, stylish clothes, and, of course, enough personality and intrigue to keep the world interested.

Ruben Montez and Zach Knight comprise one-half of this infallible formula. Ruben, the musical-theater–obsessed son of wealthy Spanish immigrants, tones down his energy and his incredible voice on stage to fit the cookie-cutter image of ordinary boy next door. Zach, a White boy from Oregon, is a leather-clad rebel in front of the cameras and a devoted and thoughtful son to his single mother behind them. As they embark on their first international tour, these four 18-year-olds—Ruben, Zach, and band mates Angel Phan (cued as Vietnamese American) and Jon Braxton (who has a Black mom and a White dad who is Saturday’s band manager)—wrestle with the expectations of their fans, their management team, their grueling touring schedule, their parents, and, most of all, their own bounding, leaping hearts. In this unexpectedly poignant love story, the glamorous facade of stardom is peeled away to reveal the human cogs of the great pop-culture machine. While often comfortably formulaic, the story subverts expectations in refreshing ways: Family conflict stems from causes other than bigotry, mental health struggles are acknowledged and destigmatized, and, pleasingly, in this story about the pitfalls of boy-band fame, teenage girls aren’t the villains.

A lively novel with as much appeal as the band itself. (Fiction. 14-18)

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-80580-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development.

I KISSED SHARA WHEELER

A romance with solid queer representation set against the backdrop of an Alabama Christian school.

Chloe Green is the only one who sees through Shara Wheeler’s goody-two-shoes act, and now that Shara’s pulled a disappearing act right before being crowned prom queen, she makes it her business to find her. This means teaming up with unlikely allies like Smith Parker, Shara’s jock boyfriend, and Rory Heron, the brooding boy next door, both in love with Shara, just as Chloe claims she is not. What brings the trio together is a series of notes Shara has left them, along with the awkward fact that she kissed all three of them before vanishing. McQuiston’s YA debut starts off as a fun page-turner with a rich cast of queer characters but ultimately disappoints with its predictable plot twists and protagonists whose journeys feel lackluster. In a story that uplifts the importance of friendship and found family, the main character’s tunnel vision and indifference toward her friends’ problems make for an ending that doesn’t feel earned. Rather than coming across as a complicated but earnest love interest, Shara feels superficial and narcissistic, raising the question of why so many people drop everything to pursue her. Shara and Chloe are White; Rory has a White mom and Black dad, and Smith is described as having dark brown skin. Bisexual Chloe has two moms.

An engaging, fast-paced story let down by character development. (author’s note) (Romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: May 3, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-24445-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love.

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LAST NIGHT AT THE TELEGRAPH CLUB

Finally, the intersectional, lesbian, historical teen novel so many readers have been waiting for.

Lily Hu has spent all her life in San Francisco’s Chinatown, keeping mostly to her Chinese American community both in and out of school. As she makes her way through her teen years in the 1950s, she starts growing apart from her childhood friends as her passion for rockets and space exploration grows—along with her curiosity about a few blocks in the city that her parents have warned her to avoid. A budding relationship develops with her first White friend, Kathleen, and together they sneak out to the Telegraph Club lesbian bar, where they begin to explore their sexuality as well as their relationship to each other. Lo’s lovely, realistic, and queer-positive tale is a slow burn, following Lily’s own gradual realization of her sexuality while she learns how to code-switch between being ostensibly heterosexual Chinatown Lily and lesbian Telegraph Bar Lily. In this meticulously researched title, Lo skillfully layers rich details, such as how Lily has to deal with microaggressions from gay and straight women alike and how all of Chinatown has to be careful of the insidious threat of McCarthyism. Actual events, such as Madame Chiang Kai-shek’s 1943 visit to San Francisco, form a backdrop to this story of a journey toward finding one’s authentic self.

Beautifully written historical fiction about giddy, queer first love. (author’s note) (Historical romance. 14-18)

Pub Date: Jan. 19, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-55525-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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