cover image Break to You

Break to You

Michelle Knowlden, Neal Shusterman, and Debra Young. Quill Tree, $19.99 (432p) ISBN 978-0-06-287576-1

Two incarcerated teens fall in love at a gender-segregated juvenile detention center in this uniquely rendered romance by Knowlden, Shusterman, and Young. High school junior Adriana Zaharn writes rhythmic poems in her journal while serving time at Compass, where “days pass in a numbing rain of emotional sleet.” When she misplaces the notebook, 17-year-old Artorias Jonathan “Jon” Kilgore cleverly smuggles it back to her via the Compass library. Adriana’s relief sours upon discovering that Jon has added brazen responses to several entries, yet the journal becomes a lifeline for both as friendly banter evolves into flirtatious revelry between poems and letters, compelling the pair to do the impossible: meet. The intersectionally diverse teen characters that populate this smoothly plotted, emotionally intense read are fully developed and represent a range of incarceration experiences; mostly one-dimensional adults spotlight warped ideas of justice that permeate a corrupt judicial system. Close third-person narration melds letters and slam poetry–inspired verse to deliver a high-stakes, dual-perspective love story that critiques juvenile incarceration and celebrates the connective power of the written word. Jon is Black; Adriana is of Moroccan descent. An author’s note concludes. Ages 13–up. (July)