Beverly is the only Black girl in her high school. She lives with her alcoholic, needy, and not-always-responsible mom in a ratty apartment. She takes care of her mom more than vice versa. She has an “aunt” who parties hard with her mom and who has a son that Beverly occasionally babysits, though he is getting old enough to need little caretaking. Beverly works part-time at a local cafe which this old fogey reviewer would call a beatnik cafe–occasional live musicians, poets, blah blah blah. It doesn’t make a lot of money or get a lot of business, but the muffins are good and it’s a hang-out place. Beverly is very focussed on her studies and getting into college, and she spends her lunch hours avoiding the other students by hanging out in a hidden corner of the library. She is painted as a character who is really insufferably too good to be true.
Everest is the Big Man on Campus–handsome, smart, kind, rich, a football star. When he tries to kill himself, however, he is suddenly persona non grata to his friends, girlfriend, and family. Everybody is angry with him for not upholding his perfect image, and nobody wants to know him. He and Beverly have an accidental meet-up and by golly he is struck with this sensitive, beautiful, intriguing girl who knows just what to say to him and how to help him Want To Live. Friendship blossoms (romance on his part), he turns into a sublime singer recognized through performances at the beatnik cafe, he sings The Star-Spangled Banner at the homecoming game when they desperately need someone at the last minute (after which suddenly everybody wants to be his friend again), Beverly is accepted into his social circle, and so on and so on. Oh, along the way Beverly finds out her mom is sabotaging her college chances, and Everest’s family lets her stay at their house for months on end, never mind the disgraceful, racist treatment the father has dished out previously.
This book is a real fairytale, but oh well, there’s a place for such. The author presents a menu of important issues but treats them in a superficial, unrealistic manner, and resolves problems in unlikely ways.
There are a few sexual references that don’t amount to much. There is no explicit sexual behavior. There is one gay character whose life is roiled over coming out to friends and family, and by trouble with a romantic partner. There is a fair amount of crude language. There is bullying and harassment.
Categories: Controversial YA Topics, Depression, Diversity, Dysfunctional Relationships, Mental Health, Navigating through High School, Parent Conflict, Peer Relationships, Racism, Sports Teams, Suicide