cover image Little & Lion

Little & Lion

Brandy Colbert. Little, Brown, $17.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-316-34900-0

After a year at boarding school, 16-year-old Suzette is happy to be home for the summer, but that doesn’t mean life is simple. Her stepbrother, Lionel, has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; Suzette has just had her first same-sex relationship (and first encounter with homophobia); and she’s attracted to both her longtime friend Emil and her flirtatious coworker Rafaela—whom Lionel also likes. Although love and sexuality are important to the story, its core is Suzette’s feelings of responsibility for Lionel and uncertainty about how to help him. Colbert (Pointe) powerfully depicts the difficulties that mental illness presents not just for those diagnosed but for the people around them, and her characters reflect the diversity of Los Angeles. Suzette and her mother are black, Lionel and his father are white, and Suzette’s friends and love interests are ethnically and sexually varied. While the characters occasionally feel slightly idealized—Suzette always tries to do the right thing, her parents are unfailingly accepting, and her friends have an impressive ability to articulate what they feel and why—it’s a moving and well-realized examination of secrecy, trust, and intimacy. Ages 15–up. Agent: Tina Wexler, ICM. (Aug.)