cover image As You Walk On By

As You Walk On By

Julian Winters. Viking, $18.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-593-20650-8

After queer Black 17-year-old Theo’s public promposal goes sideways, he must reconsider his past actions, current relationships, and future goals in this earnest romance by Winters (Right Where I Left You). Best friends Theo, Darren, and Jay have a tradition of daring each other into humorous and occasionally embarrassing situations, such as belting out Mariah Carey in their Louisville, Ky., magnet school’s quad, a welcome distraction from his father’s expectations. Jay dares Theo to ask his crush, Christian, to prom; Theo accepts, excited for the opportunity to have his “big magically gay prom night.” When Theo promposes at a house party, however, Christian reveals that he has a boyfriend. Convinced that Jay knew and set him up, Theo and his friends have an emotional blowout fueled by years of Theo’s buried frustration stemming from internal turmoil as the least affluent and only queer person in their group. Hiding out in an empty bedroom, Theo is eventually joined by fellow partygoers, including his former best friend, Aleah, each of whom is struggling in the aftermath of a hurtful conflict. Creating an outstanding, intersectionally diverse supporting cast whose personalities glimmer with dynamic energy, Winters skillfully centers showing up for oneself and communicating honestly amid an infectious celebration of queer romantic gestures. Ages 12–up. Agent: Thao Le, Sandra Dijkstra Literary. (Jan.)