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The N Word*

Wonderful Installment of Thought-Provoking Series

This is my second book to read in this series, and I am pleased to say that I am as delighted with it as I was with the first one. I absolutely adored Nari in the first book. I believe I even mentioned her in my review of that book, calling her the “truth teller” in that installment. I see that it is ironic now, as Nari’s book shows that she is full of secrets.

Nari leads a double life as a country rock keyboardist with some school bandmates. It is only when she is performing that she truly feels alive, but nobody outside of her band or a few close friends know about this… not her parents or other kids at school. Her other secret is that while the kids at school call her a nerd because she is Asian and wears nerdy glasses, she actually struggles to learn and is doing poorly in her classes. As a first-generation American, she feels pressure from her parents, especially her mother, to live their version of the American dream, whether or not it is Nari’s. The other half of the romantic relationship in the story is Avery, the football star. After making a bad play that kept his team from advancing to the playoffs, he broke up with his long-term girlfriend after he determined that it was no longer working for him because the relationship was so one-sided (all about her); he came to the conclusion that same night that continuing with football may not be what he truly wants to do, either.

Both Nari and Avery are dealing with issues at home as well as problems at school. They decide to help each other out, in a trope that is familiar to romance readers. It is well done here, though. I never mind when a trope is well done!

I’ve got to say that I absolutely adore this series. The authors are able to explore complex and challenging issues in this series in a way that resonates with me, bringing me to tears at times or making me laugh. Themes at the forefront of this novel include the pressures of expectations, the multifaceted nature of friendship, bullying, and being your true self. It certainly looks at a variety of stereotypes, showing that perceptions are not always reality. All of this is handled beautifully, with easy-to-read prose that shows us exactly how these characters think and feel and how this informs how they act. This well-rendered story is an example of why I still continue to read young adult novels even though I am way past that age!