Rich and Mad

William Nicholson, Egmont USA, $17.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-60684-120-4

In this tender book about first love from Nicholson (the Noble Warriors series), classmates Rich and Maddy barely know each other when he asks her for help winning over her friend, Grace. But after they each face heartbreak, 16-year-olds Maddy and Rich realize they are meant for each other. Readers will easily fall for these sensitive teenagers. Rich reads from Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving and reveals vulnerable feelings in his journal (“So what happens if all the girls I want turn out not to want me?”). Maddy, meanwhile, is coping with her father’s affair, a friend’s betrayal, and a growing understanding that love—and her emotions—are complex (“I’m complicated in ways I’ve never realized before. Not just happy or sad, but both, and all the shades in-between, all the time”). There is a lot of intense background plotting, including Maddy’s older sister’s abusive relationship and a teacher who leaves amid rumors that he is “a danger to the students.” But it’s Rich and Maddy’s honest (and explicit) exploration of themselves, love, sex, and each other that will most make an impression. Ages 14–up. (Sept.)