Reviewed by Andrea, Windsor Library
Aaron Soto is recovering from his father’s suicide and finds comfort in both his relationship with his girlfriend, Genevieve, and a new neighborhood friend, Thomas. Within the backdrop of this story is the futuristic Leteo Institute which is administering a trendy procedure that suppresses memories; it becomes more attractive to Aaron the more confusing his life becomes.
This book received a lot of praise; it garnered 3 starred reviews from the 6 review journals we look at, which is right in the wheelhouse of a medal. And with good reason. This book hits a lot of high points in regards to the criteria for a Printz award.
Its story is, in a word, messy. To say it’s contemporary realistic fiction would be inaccurate, but to call it sci-fi doesn’t make sense either. There’s a coming out story intertwined with the survivors of suicide story. The setting would be enough for one book, to say nothing of being just that in this one – the setting. Aaron’s story is all of these and Silvera combines them well. Think of all the stories that you are living right now; they are all happening simultaneously. So does Aaron’s.
The setting and his voice are excellent. His is the voice who is struggling with identity, friendship, family; he is, in a word, a teenager. He is sad and confused, betrayed and loved. It wasn’t overbearing or melodramatic. Aaron is thoughtful and introspective and the voice of the book mirrors that. With a plot as robust as this, Silvera does well to not overdue this element. The same can be said for the setting. A kid in the Bronx can be its own coming-of-age story. As can a kid in a house that is healing from a suicide. As can a kid coming out among a group of ultra masculine friends and their neighborhood. It’s a tribute to Silver’s writing to say that these are all woven into the storyline, that they affect and are affected by it, very well.
What gives me pause is the whole of the book. I’m looking over recent winners and see big, stylized, giant worldbuilding books that have a lot going for them in ways that add splash to their Printz appeal. Historical settings, dystopian themes, and structural choices are also at play for those recognized. The only one that stands out as a straightforward, well done story is Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley from 2012. In this way it reminds me of When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds; simple, honest, yet memorable gets the job done. I have hope that it will stand out for the Morris Award, given to debuts in YA, but have less confidence for the Printz. Here’s hoping I’m wrong.